THE ROOTS & ENERGY BEHIND OUR NAME ENERGEIA
Energeia is a word based upon ἔργον (ergon), meaning "work". It is the source of the modern word "energy" but the term has evolved so much over the course of the history of science that reference to the modern term is not very helpful in understanding the original as used by Aristotle. It is difficult to translate his use of energeiainto English with consistency. Joe Sachs renders it with the phrase "being–at–work" and says that "we might construct the word is-at-work-ness from Anglo-Saxon roots to translate energeia into English". Aristotle says the word can be made clear by looking at examples rather than trying to find a definition.
Two examples of energeiai in Aristotle's works are pleasure and happiness (eudaimonia). Pleasure is an energeia of the human body and mind whereas happiness is more simply the energeia of a human being a human.
Kinesis, translated as movement, motion, or in some contexts change, is also explained by Aristotle as a particular type of energeia. See below.
Entelechy, in Greek entelécheia, was coined by Aristotle and transliterated in Latin as entelechia. According to Sachs (1995, p. 245):
Aristotle invents the word by combining entelēs (ἐντελής, "complete, full-grown") with echein (= hexis, to be a certain way by the continuing effort of holding on in that condition), while at the same time punning on endelecheia (ἐνδελέχεια, "persistence") by inserting "telos" (τέλος, "completion"). This is a three-ring circus of a word, at the heart of everything in Aristotle's thinking, including the definition of motion.
Sachs therefore proposed a complex neologism of his own, "being-at-work-staying-the-same". Another translation in recent years is "being-at-an-end" (which Sachs has also used).
Entelecheia, as can be seen by its derivation, is a kind of completeness, whereas "the end and completion of any genuine being is its being-at-work" (energeia). The entelecheia is a continuous being-at-work (energeia) when something is doing its complete "work". For this reason, the meanings of the two words converge, and they both depend upon the idea that every thing's "thinghood" is a kind of work, or in other words a specific way of being in motion. All things that exist now, and not just potentially, are beings-at-work, and all of them have a tendency towards being-at-work in a particular way that would be their proper and "complete" way.
Sachs explains the convergence of energeia and entelecheia as follows, and uses the word actuality to describe the overlap between them:
Just as energeia extends to entelecheia because it is the activity which makes a thing what it is, entelecheia extends to energeia because it is the end or perfection which has being only in, through, and during activity.
MotionAristotle discusses motion (kinēsis) in his Physics quite differently from modern science. Aristotle's definition of motion is closely connected to his actuality-potentiality distinction. Taken literally, Aristotle defines motion as the actuality (entelecheia) of a "potentiality as such". What Aristotle meant however is the subject of several different interpretations. A major difficulty comes from the fact that the terms actuality and potentiality, linked in this definition, are normally understood within Aristotle as opposed to each other. On the other hand, the "as such" is important and is explained at length by Aristotle, giving examples of "potentiality as such". For example, the motion of building is the energeia of the dunamis of the building materials as building materials as opposed to anything else they might become, and this potential in the unbuilt materials is referred to by Aristotle as "the buildable". So the motion of building is the actualization of "the buildable" and not the actualization of a house as such, nor the actualization of any other possibility which the building materials might have had.
Building materials have different potentials.One is that they can be built with. Building is one motion that had been a potential in the building material.So it is the energeia or putting into action, of the building materials as building materials A house is built, and no longer movingIn an influential 1969 paper Aryeh Kosman divided up previous attempts to explain Aristotle's definition into two types, criticised them, and then gave his own third interpretation. While this has not become a consensus, it has been described as having become "orthodox". This and similar more recent publications are the basis of the following summary.
1. The "process" interpretationKosman (1969) and Coope (2009) associate this approach with W.D. Ross. Sachs (2005) points out that it was also the interpretation of Averroes and Maimonides.
This interpretation is, to use the words of Ross that "it is the passage to actuality that is kinesis” as opposed to any potentiality being an actuality.
The argument of Ross for this interpretation requires him to assert that Aristotle actually used his own word entelecheia wrongly, or inconsistently, only within his definition, making it mean "actualization", which is in conflict with Aristotle's normal use of words. According to Sachs (2005) this explanation also can not account for the "as such" in Aristotle's definition.
2. The "product" interpretationSachs (2005) associates this interpretation with St Thomas of Aquinas and explains that by this explanation "the apparent contradiction between potentiality and actuality in Aristotle’s definition of motion" is resolved "by arguing that in every motion actuality and potentiality are mixed or blended". Motion is therefore "the actuality of any potentiality insofar as it is still a potentiality". Or in other words:
The Thomistic blend of actuality and potentiality has the characteristic that, to the extent that it is actual it is not potential and to the extent that it is potential it is not actual; the hotter the water is, the less is it potentially hot, and the cooler it is, the less is it actually, the more potentially, hot.
As with the first interpretation however, Sachs (2005) objects that:
One implication of this interpretation is that whatever happens to be the case right now is an entelechia, as though something that is intrinsically unstable as the instantaneous position of an arrow in flight deserved to be described by the word that everywhere else Aristotle reserves for complex organized states that persist, that hold out against internal and external causes that try to destroy them.
In a more recent paper on this subject, Kosman associates the view of Aquinas with those of his own critics, David Charles, Jonathan Beere, and Robert Heineman.
3. The interpretation of Kosman, Coope, Sachs and othersSachs (2005), amongst other authors (such as Aryeh Kosman and Ursula Coope), proposes that the solution to problems interpreting Aristotle's definition must be found in the distinction Aristotle makes between two different types of potentiality, with only one of those corresponding to the "potentiality as such" appearing in the definition of motion. He writes:
The man with sight, but with his eyes closed, differs from the blind man, although neither is seeing. The first man has the capacity to see, which the second man lacks. There are then potentialities as well as actualities in the world. But when the first man opens his eyes, has he lost the capacity to see? Obviously not; while he is seeing, his capacity to see is no longer merely a potentiality, but is a potentiality which has been put to work. The potentiality to see exists sometimes as active or at-work, and sometimes as inactive or latent.
Coming to motion, Sachs gives the example of a man walking across the room and says that...
"Once he has reached the other side of the room, his potentiality to be there has been actualized in Ross’ sense of the term". This is a type of energeia. However it is not a motion, and not relevant to the definition of motion.While a man is walking his potentiality to be on the other side of the room is actual just as a potentiality, or in other words the potential as such is an actuality. "The actuality of the potentiality to be on the other side of the room, as just that potentiality, is neither more nor less than the walking across the room."Sachs (1995, pp. 78–79), in his commentary of Aristotle's Physics book III gives the following results from his understanding of Aristotle's definition of motion:
The genus of which motion is a species is being-at-work-staying-itself (entelecheia), of which the only other species is thinghood. The being-at-work-staying-itself of a potency (dunamis), as material, is thinghood. The being-at-work-staying-the-same of a potency as a potency is motion.