Thursday, March 18, 2021


John Duns Scotus

"Quiddity" like "quisling" is a word you might not employ as often as you do narcissism, metaphor or poignant. “Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures,” says Hamlet referring to the arguing over small points that makes up the human condition.  Quiddity is derived from the Latin quidditas referring to essence, what Kant might have called the noumena or Plato the ideal form of an object. You may remember the allegory, where the perception of reality experienced by humankind is equated to a shadow on the wall of a cave. There are phenomena or appearances but what is the Kantian Ding an sich, what is the “thing in and of itself?” Apparently, the word initially came into use by medieval scholastics who trafficked in these kinds of questions. Today in the world of assembly lines, how is it possible to talk about being? Do all of the Chevys running down the line of a conveyor belt possess an equivalent quiddity or is there one ideal form of the Chevy, a prototype produced by an engineer, that constitutes an ultimate iteration of the object—or is that ultimate form of anything merely an idea which is never really attainable by material things? Tom Stoppard wrote a play entitled The Real Thing, which addressed some of these questions, but when you actually look around quiddity  is something that's addressed in almost every conversation when there are speculations about what's what.

Read "Died Young" by Francis Levy, The Brooklyn Rail

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