If all actions in the inanimate world are interactions without being agent-patient relations, then where do we place the act-potency relation in the inanimate world?
1.) The living is the act of the inanimate. One possibility, suggested by Aristotle himself, is that the inanimate is only a potency to be moved by something else, making the “something else” by definition alive. We can view life either as something that arose when it found a way to exploit or ride upon the inanimate, though ultimately it has to be responsible for the inanimate. This commits us to a universe organism and/or some separate life that account for how the inanimate is in motion.
But to leave it at this would make the inanimate world a world of pure potency, and perhaps even non-being. This is intelligible if we abstract from the separate life that gives rise to the totality of the being of the inanimate, but not if we consider that life that exploits or somehow saddles the inanimate world.
In the living, we find many of the sorts of things that cannot be verified in the inanimate: the womb is clearly a natural place for an embryo, the eye-socket for an eyeball. There is a clear arrow of action and being acted upon when I use a straw to drink soda, though the we find only interactive activity in nature itself between mouth, fluid, and atmosphere.
2.) The whole cycle of an inanimate thing is the act of both the parts of the cycle and the matter composing it. Nature clearly has a preference for cycles, and these are obvious and unobjectionable wholes. The water cycle, taken as a whole, is the act to which both evaporation, condensation and water itself are potential parts.
3.) Negative entropy is the act of something. Entropy is an index of privation, and so its contrary is the act of something. Just what entropy’s proper potential is, is not clear.
4.) The system is the act to which its components are in potential. Depending on the system, inanimate parts have different activities. A golf ball hit on the course will not perform exactly the same action as one in outer space.
1 and 3 are related somehow, as are 2 and 4.