Motion, the Act of the Potential, and Inanimate Being

· Philosophy

It is not, one must suspect, as easy as many people think to separate ancient cosmology from what it called the “perennial philosophy.” The unfortunate thing, though, is that many “perennial philosophers” aren’t too interested in even trying to separate them. They are quite content with the good of fictional verisimilitude. It does not occur to them that the full good of traditional philosophy might never be found if it is not seen in the context of the historical entity called the real world.

If my theses concerning the truth about local motion and “force” are correct, then we must say several important things by way of corollary.

The primacy of “local motion” may remain intact, but it is not the “act of the potential” that everyone imagines. I do not say that it is no act of the potential; but we can have a much richer and more concretized notion of what this means, now, if we only care to look into it. Doing so will also raise many new questions. We will see, if we look into it, that becoming is not the extrinsic feature of reality which it must have inevitably seemed to be from an ancient perspective (even after the Aristotelian discovery of potential as a principle). Despite the interest the ancients had in seeing a universal cosmic order, local becoming could not, for them, be adequately seen in its true relation to substantial becoming. Time inevitably had to have, in the Aristotelian tradition, a semi-geometrical, and consequently extrinsic, aspect.

The history of the universe is coming to be seen as one of its essential features. It is far from being a merely accidental feature. The motion spoken of in Aquinas’s First Way ought to be understood in this way, rather than in the old way where it was conceived of as a quasi-geometrical, and quasi-eternal, feature of the world.

The notion that the inanimate world is a “merely passive” world is also no longer tenable. There is even more reason now than there was in the past to understand life as interiority, rather than as mere activity (as opposed to passivity). All levels of being take part in activity, much more than the ancients could see. Interiority itself is therefore a greater perfection than could before have been conceived.

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