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Headword: *)entele/xeia
Adler number: epsilon,1454
Translated headword: actuality, complete reality, entelechy
Vetting Status: high
[This term means] the fulfilment and the form of the substrate; that is, the form that comes upon the matter out of a particular composition of elements; or [it is] the form [that is] inseparable from the body. For actuality is the form and the fulfilment of the body.[1] But what is separable from the body [also] is called actuality, as the sailor [is separable from] the ship. Actuality, when it is external, not only places in order but also regulates, and fulfils the substratum. Now when [one] calls the irrational and natural soul “actuality”, one is meaning the inseparable form of actuality; but when [one] calls the rational soul “actuality”, [one is meaning] the separated [form].
[Note] that actuality is the form beyond unity and what is fulfilled and what is held together. For the form is the cause of unity and fulfilment for matter;[2] in fact it is a fulfilment of the substratum and it holds it together.
For each existing thing [comes] above all from its proper actuality, and it is named according to that -- since a statue is named that way, “statue”, but not “bronze”.[3]
Porphyrius, the Tyrian philosopher who wrote against the Christians, calls the soul “actuality”.[4]
Greek Original:
*)entele/xeia: h( teleio/ths kai\ to\ ei)=dos tou= u(pokeime/nou: toute/sti, to\ ei)=dos to\ e)pigino/menon e)k th=s toia=sde sunqe/sews tw=n stoixei/wn th=| u(/lh|: h)/toi to\ a)xw/riston ei)=dos tou= sw/matos. kai\ ga\r e)ntele/xeia/ e)sti to\ ei)=dos kai\ h( teleio/ths tou= sw/matos. le/getai de\ e)ntele/xeia to\ kexwrisme/non tou= sw/matos, w(s o( plwth\r tou= ploi/ou. h(/tis e)ntele/xeia e)/cwqe/n te ou)=sa ta/ttei kai\ diakosmei= kai\ teleioi= to\ u(pokei/menon. o(/tan ou)=n e)ntele/xeian le/gh| th\n a)/logon kai\ fusikh\n yuxh/n, to\ a)xw/riston ei)=dos th=s e)ntelexei/as le/gei: o(/tan de\ th\n logikh\n yuxh\n e)ntele/xeian le/gh|, to\ kexwrisme/non. o(/ti e)ntele/xeia/ e)sti to\ ei)=dos para\ to\ e(\n kai\ to\ te/leion kai\ to\ sune/xon. kai\ ga\r e(nw/sew/s e)sti th=| u(/lh| to\ ei)=dos ai)/tion kai\ teleiw/sews: e)pei\ kai\ teleio/ths e)sti\ tou= u(pokeime/nou kai\ sune/xei au)to/. a)po\ ga\r th=s oi)kei/as e)ntelexei/as ma/lista e(/kaston, o(/ e)sti, kai\ kat' e)kei=no le/getai: e)pei\ kai\ o( a)ndria\s au)to\ tou=to a)ndria\s le/getai kai\ ou) xalko/s. e)ntele/xeian le/gei o( *porfu/rios th\n yuxh/n, o( kata\ *xristianw=n gra/yas *tu/rios filo/sofos.
This main part of this entry follows (with varying degrees of accuracy), John Philoponus, Commentary on Aristotle's de anima: first (as far as 'the separated [form]') an approximation of 204.15-34; then (as far as 'holds it together') a closer version of 208.37 - 209.3; and for 'statue' cf. 211.22. The example of the sailor to illustrate the separation of the form (understood in terms of actuality) from the body is repeated by Philoponus throughout his commentary. See also Aristotle, De anima 414a25-27, a passage which is close in meaning both to Philoponus' and the Suda's text.
cf. delta 1573.
[1] In Aristotle’s model of change the substratum is the matter, that which underlies the process of change and out of which something comes to be. Aristotle’s scheme of change involves three factors: (1) the substratum, (2) the privation, and (3) the form -- the privation and the form being 'the opposites' (Physics 191a3-5). Any change is understood as a motion 'coming from something and going toward something', so that the contraries or opposites constitute the limit of any change (Physics 252b10-12; Metaphysics 1033a24-28 (web address 1)). Matter (or the substratum) is what changes, since it is both contraries in potentiality (Metaphysics 1069b7-18 (web address 2)). Now the privation (ste/rhsis) and the form should be understood as being "two forms". Privation is a sort of “negative form” (such as “unmusical” said of a man, which is the substratum, or "shapelessness" or "formlessness" said of the bronze or the stone, which are their substrata; Physics 190b13-17), and form is a "positive form or the form in the strict sense", that is, the positive determination the object will have at the end of the process of change. And this is so, Aristotle says, because in every process of change there is a substratum having a form and, in the course of the change, such a substratum loses that form and acquires another one. A man (an individual substance), for instance, in being unmusical, becomes musical (qualitative change), or an undetermined substratum, in not being a man, becomes a man (substantial change). Now matter is, by definition, something passive which by itself is not said as something determined (Metaphysics 1042a27-28 (web address 3)), something that, "without being a 'this' in actuality is a 'this' in potentiality" (mh\ to/de ti ou)=sa e)nergei/a| duna/mei e)sti\ to/de ti). The active principle of the process is the form (insofar as it is what actualizes or gives complete reality to matter when making it a defined object), which is identified with actuality. Thus Aristotle can say that a particular thing (such as a bed, flesh, or bone) is not that particular thing if it is what it is only in potentiality and has not yet the form of the particular thing. So the form both actualizes the possibility of being of some substratum and it is that by which we, in making a definition, say what flesh or bone are (Physics 193a33-b3).
[2] The issue of the separation of the form goes back to Plato and is a very important aspect of the dispute between Plato and Aristotle. The Platonic thesis that Forms are separated from the particulars is vigorously rejected by Aristotle (see for example Metaphysics 1033b20-21 (web address 4)). Although Aristotle admits the Platonic assertion that the object of knowledge is the universal, he thinks Plato is wrong in considering that the universal (i.e. the way in which Aristotle understands Plato's Forms) must exist separately or beyond the sensible particulars (Metaphysics 990b11-31 (web address 5)). In Aristotle's view Platonic Forms are pointless because the separated form does not contribute to account for the particulars (Metaphysics 990a34-b8). For other details of Aristotle's criticisms see Metaphysics 1.9, 13.4-5 and the illuminating account of the criticisms by Berti [1977], 196-230). Now, even though Aristotle rejects the allegedly Platonic separation between Forms and sensible things (since if the form were separated from the particular, it might not be present in a multiplicity of things), he admits a certain type of separation: a conceptual or logical separation (Physics 193b4-5; Metaphysics 1042a28-29).
[3] That is to say, each thing is named according to its own form, not according to its matter (see above, note 1).
[4] Porphyry [pi 2098, pi 2099], On Aristotle's Categories (vol 4.1 Busse) p.55.20.
Berti, E., Aristotele: Dalla dialettica alla filosofia prima (Padua: Cedam) 1977
Polansky, R., "Energeia in Aristotle’s Metaphysics IX”, in A. Preus, J.P. Anton (eds.) Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy V. Aristotle’s Ontology (Albany: State University of New York Press) 1992: 211-225
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5
Keywords: art history; biography; Christianity; definition; philosophy; religion; science and technology; trade and manufacture
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 30 June 2003@11:26:46.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added x-ref and keyword; cosmetics) on 1 July 2003@03:03:52.
David Whitehead (added x-ref) on 1 July 2003@04:55:53.
Catharine Roth (began to modify translation) on 22 February 2005@21:12:30.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 3 October 2005@09:57:10.
William Hutton (cosmetics and typos, added links and keywords, set status) on 4 October 2006@08:33:26.
David Whitehead (expanded primary note; more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 29 August 2012@08:29:09.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 23 January 2015@23:50:05.
David Whitehead (note tweaks) on 13 January 2016@05:37:46.
Catharine Roth on 6 April 2017@01:11:06.
Catharine Roth (tweaks and cosmetics) on 9 April 2017@02:12:08.
Catharine Roth (tweaked links) on 9 April 2017@02:22:50.


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