Volume 15, Issue 2, Spring 2011
Jeffrey D. Gower
The King of the Cosmos
Potentiality, Actuality, and the Logic of Sovereignty in Aristotle’s Metaphysics Λ
This paper offers a deconstructive reading of the pure actuality of the unmoved mover of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda. Aristotle describes this first, unmoved principle of movement as a divine sovereign—the king of the cosmos—and maintains that the good governance of the cosmos depends on its unmitigated unity and pure actuality. It is striking, then, when Giorgio Agamben claims that Aristotle bequeathed the paradigm of sovereignty to Western philosophy not through his arguments for the pure actuality of the unmoved mover but rather through his description of the essence of potentiality. An interpretation of Aristotle’s account of potentiality in Metaphysics Theta therefore prepares the way for a deconstruction of the unity and pure actuality of the divine sovereign. I argue that the repetition of nous in Aristotle’s description of the divine thinking of thinking betrays traces of division and difference at the heart of divine sovereignty. If this is the case, then actuality and potentiality become indiscernible at the level of the absolute and the sovereign corresponds to the bifurcated site of this indiscernibility.