The puzzle of potential form

One puzzle of hylomorphism is that it needs to give some account of potential form, but it’s not clear how to do this.

Form only exists in matter or the composite, but it doesn’t exist from matter or the composite. That this in-existence sometimes is and sometimes isn’t requires that the form be somehow contingent, but this can’t be the contingency of the composite.

The parallel problem of matter does not arise, or at least not in the same way. It’s in the very nature of potency that it is not actual now and later is, and so calling matter potential suffices to explain motion from one thing to another.

Here’s another run at the same problem: as Dekoninck liked to point out, form exists only as a term of generation but it is not generated. So we have to find some account of how things exist always and only after a process and not before, but not because of the process.

Another: Aristotle addresses the Parmenidean problem, but not entirely. He does a very good job at explaining becoming as a continuous process between terms, but not becoming as “what was not and later is”. The two are not the same, even on Aristotle’s own account of things, since form was not actual and later is.

Aristotle seems to want to say that forms simply always are: circularity is the form of the bronze disc, but circularity does not arise. But this doesn’t address the problem. Maybe forms qua forms are abstract, but we need to account for how Circularity is in the o of this now, which, let’s not forget, is exactly what Aristotle is trying to explain.

This is why STA was right to say that we need to posit not just a participation of matter in the act of form, but also a participation of composite form in separated form. Whether we take forms as equivalent to existence, as A did, or take form as potency to existence but not to motion, as STA did, form arises in an act of creation.

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