The posteriority of knowledge, which makes potential being indirectly known to us

The human intellect receives its knowledge from things, and so it can only know insofar as things act upon it. But something cannot act on our senses unless actual, so we can only come to know the potential, as such, from an analogy to what is actual.

But even though potential being can only be known indirectly to us, whether our metaphysics divides being into the actual and the potential makes such a difference that it is impossible to overstate its importance. As soon as we divide being into potency and act, we are committed to some kind of discipleship to Aristotle. But to the extent that we fail to make this distinction, we simply don’t know where to start.

The distinction of things into potency and act makes all the things around us not mere facts or things, but composites by their very nature. The unity of things, in other words, becomes a unity of two principles, one of which is potential.

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