Sunday, July 13, 2008
My "whatness"... Quiddity
In philosophy, quiddity is identity or "whatness," something's "what it is." It comes from the scholastic Medieval Latin term quidditas, "essence," from quid, "what." Quiddity describes properties a particular substance—like a person—shares with others of its kind.
Unlike quiddity, “haecceity” denotes the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing which make it a particular thing. Haecceity is a person or object's "thisness,” referring to aspects of a thing that make it a particular thing, while quiddity refers to the universal qualities of a thing, its "whatness", those aspects of a thing that it shares with other things.
What we are in common with others, what we are distinct from them. And, finally, what we are.
What is my whatness? And yours? A fox has fox-ness, a crow has crow-ness, and we have…what? What makes you you? Is it possible to answer that question except as “you” is in relationship to other “you’s”?
Rarely, I imagine, is the word “quiddity” used in an obituary (something to aspire to!); that of poet Ted Hughes’ was an exception: “He wanted to capture not just live animals, but the aliveness of animals in their natural state: their wildness, their quiddity, the fox-ness of the fox and the crow-ness of the crow.”
Poets, it would seem, are dipping pens into inkwells every morning after their black coffee and scone corner to do just that: capture quiddity. Ironically, then, quiddity itself is the essence of their work to capture quiddity, an infinite regress of quiddities, a word that quite stops looking like itself once you write it a few times.
~from the 37 Days Blog
Marion found this for me last summer and I posted it on my old blog. Since that time, I've had a lot of days, where, in the midst of the day, I've tried to define my "quiddity", at least on that particular day. So, I resurrected this thought.
I'm a poet, and this morning, after my coffee (with cream), instead of messing with my inkwell, I used another important part of my "whatness", my desire to solve puzzles. Perhaps this lifelong love of puzzles (my family used to do jigsaws together) along with the puzzle that is Scrabble, along with the reading of mystery thriller after mystery thriller, is part of my "whatness". It sure was today!
I don't keep puzzles and rarely do them at home, but a dear friend sent me a lighthouse puzzle, and I'm pretty consumed with lighthouse pictures, so I went at it vociferously in my kitchen. Rain, thunder and lightning abounded (the kitchen nook has big glass windows on two sides, looking out into a beautiful wooded area) while I worked away at my task. I finally disconnected myself (more after dinner) to accomplish errands, laundry and a little cleaning.
A lovely, relaxing weekend. Part of my quiddity!