Haecceity (/hɛkˈsiːɪti, hiːk-/; from the Latin haecceitas, which translates as “thisness”) is a term from medieval scholastic philosophy, first coined by Duns Scotus, which denotes the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing which make it a particular thing.
You are you very specifically, not generally – this is your youness or thisness.
Haecceity counteracts the ideologies which purport to have something better in mind for a society, culture, or nation. A top-down “ology” struggles to recognise or arrive at the specific, the individual. Whilst not without its issues, to see the one, allows us to see the many: we are holons and all are valued.
We’re always trying to make sense of the individual and the society because we are, at the same time, both. There would be no society without individuals and there would be no individuals without a society in which to be nurtured.
Denis Wood differentiates between mapping and mapmaking as, the former is the passing on of information from person to person within a society, and the latter, the exploration of blank spaces with the goal of accruing and recording knowledge to be accessed by those who wish to use it.
Perhaps the first could be described as insiderism – passed on to a certain few, whilst the second has been described as colonialism – the making of maps in the image of the exploring society without reference to the mapping of those already within the area.
The first is passed on through experience, the second can be accessed, through limited cost and effort, via a book, a website, or a real map.
Perhaps there are problems and dangers to both. The experiential method of mapping is time-consuming – sometimes taking a lifetime, whilst the industrialised mapmaking can use and abuse information without engagement with what is being represented:
‘It is this subsumed and amassed cultural capital that mapmaking societies bring to the task of making maps, not he patiently acquired mastery of this or that individual more or less carefully passed on – often in secret – through speech or gesture or inculcated habit.’*
Whilst it is possible access the information of a map and never visit the represented area, this is not the case when it comes to mapping. You have to be there, you have to see the people and trees and rivers – to be aware of the thinness, and to appreciate how, ‘The principle here is to “go deep in any one place and you will meet all places.”‘**
So far, we’ve related mapmaking and mapping to societies, cultures, and nations, but we could be talking about our schools and universities, councils, religious organisations, councils, businesses, and families.
It isn’t a case of having to go either/or, but I think I prefer starting with thisness.