Sacramentum Mundi Online

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Act and Potency
(2,365 words)

1. In the Aristotelian and Thomist tradition act and potency are the constitutive principles of finite beings. The doctrine, which has been called the “essence of Thomism” (Manser), is used in Scholasticism as a basic instrument of thought. To show that act and potency are the basic structure of all the beings we meet with, that is, of all finite beings, we must investigate them in our primordial experience of reality.

a) None of the beings we encounter presents itself to us in the simple fullness of its being. It is never wholly “there”. When we are confronted wit…

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Oswald Schwemmer, “Act and Potency”, in: Sacramentum Mundi Online, General Editor Karl Rahner, SJ. Consulted online on 30 November 2023 <>
First published online: 2016

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