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Blog: Haecceity

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Over the course of the last six years or so, whilst doing THE PHD, I have struggled with what to CALL one of the key ASPECTS of it. It's to do with what makes Doctor Doom (or whatever character you're talking about) Doctor Doom (or whatever character you're talking about), and I've always ended up saying "the Doctor Doom-ness of Doctor Doom" (or whatever... you get the idea). People generally tend to GET this, but it never feels particularly elegant, and I have long wished to sort it out, preferably via a FANCY WORD. Academics LOVE fancy words, and I wanted to GET one.

The problem was always that I didn't KNOW one, but then the other day I realised I had a vast well of RESOURCE which I could use i.e. BRAINY people on Facebook! Over the past few months I have asked a few questions using this method, and have been delighted to discover that I know LOADS of people a) with MIGHTY BRANES b) who are very happy to help, and so I put it to them: "WOT", I enquired, "is a good word for this?"

Good golly, but I was not prepared for the influx of BRANES which ensued. Lots of great ideas came forth, which tended to fall into a number of CAMPS. The first were words around the idea of the "essence" of a character - the things which quintessentially make them THEM. This may sound like exactly what I'm on about, and certainly fitted with how I phrased the question, but to my understanding they sounded like ESSENTIAL things that only that character could have, and without them would not BE that character. That doesn't quite fit with what I'm after because the Doctor Doom-ness of Doctor Doom is NOT exclusive to him (or to one version of him) nor does he HAVE to have all those aspects to BE a Doctor Doom. Lots of characters have a green cape for example without being Doctor Doom, and there are Doctor Dooms which have a slightly DIFFERENT coloured cape but are still him. Similarly, when I ran my survey, most people thought that it was essential for Doctor Doom to hate Reed Richards, but when I looked at the actual TEXTS there were several versions of Doom where Reed Richards doesn't even EXIST, and yet he was still clearly Doctor Doom.

Crikey, I have written "Doctor Doom" a lot of times there - you can see why I wanted to find a terminology that didn't have his name in it ! The next category were SPIRITUAL terms which were a bit more like it, but also slightly too QUALITATIVE, in that they were BROADER than I needed and tended to become more about who one specific individual was, rather than the big old bunch of different yet RELATED versions of the same character that I was after.

None of these MIGHTY THORTS were in any way WRONG, by the way, and I was DELIGHTED that so many people came up with so many GRATE ideas, but there was one clear winner amongst all of them that fitted my requirements precisely, and that was "Haecceity". This was suggested by my old pal Mr C Lawson, and wins because a) it is GREEK and therefore FANCY and b) it directly translates as "THIS-NESS", which is bloody perfect. Not only do phrases like "The Haeccity of Doctor Doom" (almost) literally translate as meaning "The Doctor Doom-ness of Doctor Doom" and similarly "The Haeccity of Lara Croft" as "The Lara Croft-ness of Lara Croft" but it ALSO sounds hilariously (NB to me anyway) MADE UP, as if some Ancient Greek BRANE went "Oh sod it, let's just call it "THIS-NESS" and knock off early for the day.

THUS anyone who attends any of my upcoming Conference Presentations can expect me to be saying "Haecceity" (pronounced, I think, as "Heck SEA At Ee") an LOT. INDEED I expect this to become something that people EXPECT from me, and if I DON'T do it it will become odd, TO THE EXTENT that LO! it becomes part of my own HAECCEITY! What a GRATE word!

posted 27/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett

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That's so interesting! Haecceity becomes a large part of what Peirce turns into his concept of Secondness, informing in turn his concept of tyche, which is what I use to describe particular recognizability in comic book (and beyond) characters - same idea, taken from the other end of the history of philosophy.
posted 27/5/2022 by Stephan Packard

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