The adjective ‘potential’ sets a logical trap. A potential x is not a kind of x, but at best a thing of a different kind that is capable of becoming an x (so, for example, the destruction of a potential x is not the same as the destruction of an actual x ). In Aristotelian terms, potential is a power to change into different states. In biology the nature of this power remained a central question until the discovery of ‘instructions’ for development in the shape of the DNA molecule. The difference between potentiality and actuality is also one of the puzzling questions raised by quantum mechanics, according to which a particle such as an electron or photon is completely described by a set of potentialities with different probabilities of being realized, until the moment of measurement, when just one of them is recognized as actual. See Schrödinger's cat.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Potentiality — Po*ten ti*al i*ty, n. The quality or state of being potential; possibility, not actuality; inherent capability or disposition, not actually exhibited. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • potentiality — index ability, capacity (aptitude), chance (possibility), feasibility, likelihood, possibility …   Law dictionary

  • potentiality — 1620s, from M.L. potentialitas, from potentialis (see POTENTIAL (Cf. potential)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • potentiality — [pō ten΄shē al′ə tē, pəten΄shē al′ə tē] n. [ML potentialitas] 1. the state or quality of being potential; possibility of becoming, developing, etc.; latency 2. pl. potentialities something potential; a possibility …   English World dictionary

  • potentiality — [[t]pəte̱nʃiæ̱lɪti[/t]] potentialities N VAR: usu with supp If something has potentialities or potentiality, it is capable of being used or developed in particular ways. [FORMAL] The breathtaking potentialities of mechanization set the minds of… …   English dictionary

  • potentiality — UK [pəˌtenʃɪˈælətɪ] / US noun [countable] Word forms potentiality : singular potentiality plural potentialities formal the possibility that something will happen or develop in the future …   English dictionary

  • potentiality — /peuh ten shee al i tee/, n., pl. potentialities for 2. 1. the state or quality of being potential. 2. something potential; a possibility: Atomic destruction is a grim potentiality. [1615 25; < ML potentialitas. See POTENTIAL, ITY] * * * …   Universalium

  • potentiality — potential ► ADJECTIVE ▪ having the capacity to develop into something in the future. ► NOUN 1) qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness. 2) (often potential for/to do) the possibility of something… …   English terms dictionary

  • potentiality — noun (plural ties) Date: 1625 1. the ability to develop or come into existence 2. potential 1 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • potentiality — noun a) The quality of being, or having potential. b) An inherent capacity for growth or development. See Also: potence, potency, potent …   Wiktionary

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