Energeia ( _gr. ἐνέργεια) is an important Greek technical term in the works of Aristotle. The two components of his coinage indicate something being "in work". It is the etymological source of the modern word "energy" but the term has evolved so much during Western History that this link is no longer helpful in understanding the original Aristotelian term.

Many translators into English appear to make no effort to find one single English word for "energeia" in their translations. One American scholar, Joe Sachs, attempts to translate it literally as a "being at work," although most frequently terms derived from Latin translations like activity and actuality are used, attempting to give the sense of something which is more than just potentially existent.



At "Nicomachean Ethics" I.viii.1098b33 the relative importance of activity or being at work is made clear, and the matter is also discussed in "Metaphysics" VIII-IX. Aristotle claims that pleasure, as opposed to the popular view of an emptiness that needs to be fulfilled, actually consists in energeia of the human body and mind (Book X). Thus, he would claim that eating is pleasurable in the sense that it allows the human digestive system to fully function, sex is pleasurable for the same reason with the reproductive system, and activities such as studying mathematics or admiring art are pleasurable because they are an energeia with respect to the mind.

Aristotle also contrasts "energeia" with "dunamis" and "hexis", in various places. See "Eudemian Ethics" II.i.1218b and "Nicomachean Ethics" I.viii.1098b33. And it is sometimes compared to kinesis (movement or perhaps sometimes change). See "Metaphysics" IX.iii.1047a.


Plotinus in his Enneads sought to reconcile the dialectical position of Aristotle with the one of Plato and Socrates. Plotinus' taught that the one, or Monad was force (in it's emmunation of the demiurge or nous was called energeia) as that which is motionless but sets all (as force or dunamis) in motion. This reconciled Plato's good and beautiful, with Aristotle's Unmoved Mover as energy.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity

St Gregory Palamas wrote about the energies of God (in contrast to God's essence) in his defense of the Eastern Orthodox ascetic pratice of hesychasm. Gregory and the time that he wrote his defense do not represent the expression of God and his various manifestations of energy as being a new or innovative idealogy or theology rather St Gregory is according to tradition the one who gave the traditions a defense and established these teachings as Orthodox theological dogma. Gregory wrote that God has realities Father, Son and Holy Spirit and these realities effect the created world as does the energies of God. All being in essence uncreated.

ee also

*Alexander of Aphrodisias


Energeia (energy) was invoked as the protector of the ephemeral Free State of Fiume (Croatia, 1920-1924) by Italian poet and war hero Gabriele D'Annunzio, who also called it "the tenth Muse" in the constitution he drafted for it [http://www.nationarchive.com/Summaries/v111i2886_19.htm] .


*Energeia And Entelecheia: "Act" in Aristotle by George Alfred Blair University of Ottawa Press ISBN-13: 978-0776603643
*Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon by Francis Peters NYU Press ISBN-13: 978-0814765524

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