The Realm of Potentials

Seen from the perspective of the past, the current state we are in was only a scenario, or potential among other possibilities. Similarly, the actual state contains future scenarios, or potentials of change.  Undoubtedly, it is reasonable consider the field of potentiality as an inseparable part of our actual state of who we are.

All objects possess a field of possibilities enhulfing their actual state. Let's take a simple example of a metallic object such as a nail or a screw and list all its apparent properties to identify its state.  Although the metallic item under observation can be new and shiny, nevertheless its complete identification must include its ability to react with the surrounding molecules of air, and consequently form in time a layer of rust – which is currently a nonexisting state.  

Potentials and the Identity of object 

Because of the dynamic nature of existence, a complete description of the identity of object must include the factor of time, and what possible changes are related to the identified object.  Changes, which objects manifest are either caused by the environment, or caused by inner disposition for chnge within the make up of object.  

Suppose we take the example of the actual state (A) of a seed of a fruit - under observation.  We can verify its class of belonging and its specific properties (a) - a description identifying its actual state.  According to the General Law of Identity, this seed has a list of future possibilities (p) that it can develop into.  One possible situation is trivial, for example the possibility that during the time of observation the seed is terminated, swallowed by a bird, or in another situation it could be dried up with other seeds and grinded into powder to extract its essential oil for use in cosmetics – but of great interest is the potential of the seed to absorb moisture and chemicals from its surroundings soil, enough to sprout.  The three mentioned possible situations fwhich can be encoutered by the seed - constitute (p), a property in A = {a, p}.  

This example of a relatively simple entity (a fruitful tree), shows successive phases of growth in time.  None of the successive stages of growth is possible without the preceding one.  Regardless of how we define the particular stages of growth, each stage (actual state) can be seen as the origin of the next following one.  The field of potentials (p) exists within the seed from the very start, and it continues to exist at each phase of growth, being inseparable from the dynamic identity of this observed object.

Possible Situations in the life of the individual

Where from do the potential states of the individual originate?  The mental storehouse of tendencies, aspirations, desires, hope and beliefs – is active within the actual state of the individual at each moment in time.  These mental powers paint dynamic images of potential actions in the future. Developing scenarios of possible situations are influenced by individual's past actions and current intentionality.  Individual's motivation keeps the mind polarized towards realizing created scenarios.  This leads to selecting appropriate factors from the environment to turn some of the potential scenarios into possible states of existence.

Considering the realm of potentials {P} in the identity of the individual can also explain why individuals get engaged in relationships.  Depending on the intensity of desire of the individual, created scenarios (of potential states) can acquire considerable strength of motivation.  A desired scenario become repetitively nagging in one's mind seeking realization, and in this way it acquires the power of influence on one's behavior and choice.

If a desired potential (p) of one person is shared with another individual's potentials (p'), then both fields of potentials ( p and p') act as magnets driving them into a shared scenario of events.  This understanding of merging of potential scenarios of individuals indicates also that there is a level of responsibility of each individual in the making of the shared relationship.

Dispositionalism: Another indication of Potentiality

In an attempt to explore the essence of causality of events, why - for example - glass is shattered when a stone is thrown at it - a perspective known as Disposionalism explains that objects possess inner potentials and one of the potential of fragile glass is to be broken upon impact:

          "[Dispositionalism] is built on the idea that individual objects can contain their own dispositional properties

          or, as some call them, causal powers.  It is these that are responsible for any effect that those objects have.

          [When] something is fragile, it suggests that there is some hidden potentials within it.  There is a disposition for

          some other possible properties".  

(Causation: A very Short Introduction, page 97 - S. Mumford and R L Anjum, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0-19-968443-4)


The view of Dispositionalism suggests that potential properties are part of the identity of an object in focus.  This is an important perspective, which merges the two concepts of Causality of events and Identity of involved objects, supporting the inclusion of the 'field of inner potentials (p) ' - within the basic make-up or identity of objects.

Potentiality: An essential component in the make-up of Identity

When we identify an object or an individual, we become "judgement makers": categorizing the observed entity according to our already established references. This is not wrong in itself. It is beneficial for the practice of social institutions - such as medical services or the police - to provide a quick description of identity based on age, ethnicity, education, etc... A common practice as it is, responsible institutions usually acknowledge that the information they use to accomodate individuals in their systems will not be used as a discriminatory element.

In this perspective of establishing identity, the individual in focus acquires an identity with strictly defined boundaries - an identity, which is externally (socially) delivered.  This surface-thin identity is static; it cannot encompass the dynamic truth about who the individual really is, a continually progressing and changing entity.  Scenarios of future developments of the identified object or individual - are part of the actual state, however, it is an invisible part, which cannot be perceived by the senses.

Identity is a matter of choice

Including the field of Potentiality as an inseparable part of Identity - gives an insight to the problem of Identity over time.  Without the inclusion of Potentiality as a driving power within the formation of identity, the problem of chnage over time becomes deadlocked.

Most importantly, Potentiality allows the individual to choose a future development of own identity, surpassing the limitations of views about the individual's circumstances and conditions.