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On The Soul   


actually. The power of sense is parallel to what is combustible, for

that never ignites itself spontaneously, but requires an agent which

has the power of starting ignition; otherwise it could have set itself

on fire, and would not have needed actual fire to set it ablaze.

In reply we must recall that we use the word 'perceive' in two ways,

for we say (a) that what has the power to hear or see, 'sees' or

'hears', even though it is at the moment asleep, and also (b) that

what is actually seeing or hearing, 'sees' or 'hears'. Hence 'sense'

too must have two meanings, sense potential, and sense actual.

Similarly 'to be a sentient' means either (a) to have a certain

power or (b) to manifest a certain activity. To begin with, for a

time, let us speak as if there were no difference between (i) being

moved or affected, and (ii) being active, for movement is a kind of

activity-an imperfect kind, as has elsewhere been explained.

Everything that is acted upon or moved is acted upon by an agent which

is actually at work. Hence it is that in one sense, as has already

been stated, what acts and what is acted upon are like, in another

unlike, i.e. prior to and during the change the two factors are

unlike, after it like.

But we must now distinguish not only between what is potential and

what is actual but also different senses in which things can be said

to be potential or actual; up to now we have been speaking as if

each of these phrases had only one sense. We can speak of something as

'a knower' either (a) as when we say that man is a knower, meaning

that man falls within the class of beings that know or have knowledge,

or (b) as when we are speaking of a man who possesses a knowledge of

grammar; each of these is so called as having in him a certain

potentiality, but there is a difference between their respective

potentialities, the one (a) being a potential knower, because his kind

or matter is such and such, the other (b), because he can in the

absence of any external counteracting cause realize his knowledge in

actual knowing at will. This implies a third meaning of 'a knower'

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