2018-04-21 13:45 fiction cyclopaedia

Cyclopaedia Chapter Two: The Nature Of Thingness

Quiddity dipped the pen. He hovered the pen over the paper, cognizant that the freshly inked nib might drip a small, uncomfortable spot onto the paper if he had gone too vigorously into the inkwell.

Thingness includes things, each Thing is an indivisible unit of Essence, whereby the collections of Things demonstrate a quality of Thingness.

It didn't make that much sense to him after he'd written it down so he backtracked.

Start with Essence, Quiddity thought. Don't presume indivisibility, what if this was only part of the Thingness. His head hurt, he put pressure on his temples. He rotated his fingers in a constant, soothing rate. Things must not contain one another in their qualities, but a Thing may include mutation as part of its Thingness. He determined to drop the idea of Essence. It would only complicate matters. He knew this would be difficult. It was necessary however. If you wanted to classify the world, you needed the underlying principles for that classification. It must also be viable for the classification of classifiers. It must be unarguable for the classifiers.

What is a Thing. A Thing is its position in the classification. Good.

He was getting somewhere. Things adjacent to other Things in the taxonomy must be definable and separate, their shared qualities mapped well with MetaThings. Adjacent MetaThings are merely neighbors by a kind of linguistic topology. But then how was this defined. There had to be a consensus, or the MetaThing must be an obvious representation. Or quality.


He carefully put down the pen with slight disgust. This defeats the purposes of clarity. They'd already been collecting data. This was bolting on philosophy. They had already come up with a basic set of classifiers. What was he doing now. Wasn't he attempting to justify a behavior that had already been set in motion. He should let someone younger and smarter finish this work. He was content to organize. He enjoyed it. He didn't need reasons, enjoyment was enough reason.

He couldn't preach a sermon about Thingness, although he'd need to. Yet somehow he knew what it was. In the cluttered room of his mind, the stacks of mental paper and unfiled tidbits which piled up, there were obvious Things, absolute, certain. Why was a specific flower a Thing. Why was the sea surrounding a peninsula a Thing. More terrifying, was he a Thing. He didn't want to fall down that hole so he rejected this immediately. But of course he returned to it. Was he different than other men, despite what his vanity wanted. Basically, no, his particular configuration might be unique, but if he examined any individual component, it was all merely recombination. There would be no entry for him, that would only feed his ego. But to record and classify everything, one must assume he would be classified as well as the street he inhabited, and the building he lived. Then, does every flower have an entry, does every pedal have an entry.

No, this was madness.

But what if it were possible, at some point in the future, where the paper cards they used to keep details of a Thing were no longer bound by the size of the world itself—no flood of paper, no continent of files and drawers, no mausoleum of specimens. The catalog would be the world, and visa-versa. So then there was a sense of importance or priority to Thingness. There was a hierarchy, or rank. Quiddity might have an entry before his cat. But why. He was derailing his original purpose. If there was an entry. If there was an entry then it must be an entry, of Thingness. If there was no entry, but could be an entry, then it must be of its Thingness.

There was something. A Thing of itself.

Independence—taking the needs of the Cyclopaedia away from the philosophy of Things. It was the other way around. Thingness was inviolate. It had to be. When they created entries they could do the dirty work, the actual Cyclopaedia was messy. It would never be perfect. But the reasons for it had to be perfect. Or, they had to be irresistible.

He paused again. These ideas were polluting one another.

The mission was not the same as solidifying the philosophy of Things. But could one exist without the other. This is why he shouldn't be the person doing this work. But they insisted, the ones with the money, the ones who controlled the world. Because the Cyclopaedia was a Thing he started. A Thing. Groan. An arm was an arm, a man was a man, but an arm could not be said to be an individual man, but a man with these arms could be said to be a measurable entity. A Thing. He didn't know where he was going with this. Once you started cutting up individuals into species you would end up cutting the world apart, you would dissect the universe infinitely. And the language and thinking of the world would likewise be sliced apart, useless. A Thing should be self-contained. It can be made of parts, but it must contain the parts. So what of a one armed man, or a man with no arms. Still a man. A man with no legs and no arms, still a man. A man with no head. In this case it's a body. Now he was becoming morose. Abstraction was a talent, but only to a certain degree. This munging of terms was not helpful.

What about Metaphysics. Bound to come up. Always did. They would bring it up, he knew who, they were always there, the ones who attributed everything to the invisible, the unknowable, the uncategorizable. He had a plan. He would organize it for them. He would put each small god into a box and label it. He would take the boxes of gods and he would file them in the correct branch of knowledge, the branch of beliefs in fact, unverifiable beliefs. Still this wouldn't stop them. He knew what they would claim. They would say Thingness came from a power, a Metaphysical force, and they would leave it at that. Tidy for them. When pressed they would say it's clear, it's obvious, this Thingness.

He fiddled the nib in the ink.

Maybe. Maybe they had something. At the end of the road of Reason, the final destination is unreasonable. Could he prove Thingness or would he end up saying "it's obvious". The house cat is a cat, the songbird is a bird, the arm is an arm, and a man is a man. No, it was ridiculous. Even the unreasonable could be whittled away. He would whittle it away, he would not admit defeat or fall back on the shoulders of gods or ghosts. He lifted the glass of tea, now cold, slipping it loudly. He stared at the page. A web of Reason, this idea of Thingness. It must exist as a physicality, beyond the tongues of men and the language that came from them. The Cyclopaedia would not define a thing's Thingness, it would suggest, describe, contain. It would be an atlas, for the navigation of knowledge.

He liked this. He mentally patted himself on the back. Good job, he said to himself, then he looked down to the page and had to reread it all over, to see if it made any sense. It didn't.

This was exactly what the Cyclopaedia should prevent, he thought, this constant reorientation. I am lost in a forest of nameless animals, he thought. Once a fact was entered, and properly cross-referenced, there should be no need for reorientation. One could proceed confidently. So the Cyclopaedia was a hedge against paralyzing doubt. He believed in the social necessity of this. There had to be Truth, there had to be truths. Without this, there was nothing but manipulation, propaganda, and commodity. The Cyclopaedia had to be above this. A Thing should be True, a Thing should be irrefutable. The moment this became a game, or lawyering, or rhetoric, was the moment the Cyclopaedia became a political tool for bureaucracies and dictators.

At the center of the necessary integrity was Thingness. The government would consult the Cyclopaedia, not the other way around. People in power could not be allowed arguments against the monolithic solidity of a Category or of authoritative Compilation, or against this undeniable definition of Things. Now he paused with the sour tang of the word "Authority". It was rotten. He'd never liked it, but then he'd never understood it. What would he be doing by setting in motion a new sort of "Authority". He wondered if this too was something best left to others. He was just an old collector and cataloger, a purveyor of tidbits, bug namer, bird watcher, leaf presser, habitual doodler, penitent librarian, evangelical labeler, lazy eccentric. It was true.

He knew part of his devising the statute of Thingness was his misanthropic belief that groups of people would always come to the wrong decision. His pessimistic view of human nature and his desire to protect his life's work made him, no doubt, into a typical crank. But he was old enough and cranky enough that he didn't care. A real misanthrope, Quiddity thought, no longer rails against others' opinions and behavior, the real misanthrope realizes this is a waste of energy.

The Cyclopaedia would live on beyond him. It was a Thing. It was a Thing that contained references, or pointers, to every other Thing. Once it was large enough, once enough Things had been Compiled, there would be a tipping point where it would exist forever and nothing could stop that. But the task at hand—getting the Cyclopaedia strong enough to exist by itself. Getting enough Compilers to travel the world. Getting doctrines of The Work written. Understanding Thingness so that the Compilers wouldn't stray. A Thing would be made concrete by the data collected from the Compilers. The Compilers would study every Thing, as directed, they would study Things and Things-To-Be. As the Cyclopaedia grew, momentum would be created by itself, and the richness of the taxonomical tree would breed Compilers, and so on. Thingness, then, was defined by the process of creating an entry for the Cyclopaedia, and Thingness would be a place in the tree, and as the tree grew it would determine what would be a Thing. Just as birds are a Category, its members are Things. Those members are made of parts, some of those parts may be Things in other categorical trees.

Yes, this was much simpler. He was no philosopher, he was creator of the Cyclopaedia, so he would set the definitions and conventions, and he would let the slippery implications be battled by others. He wrote down the necessary points, nested, as a concise list. He threw the rest of the pages away, the extrapolations and doubt, these should never be seen. The nature of Things, then, was the Cyclopaedia itself.

Quiddity wondered what kind of illness this was, to start such a monstrosity, why he'd even started it. Perhaps he'd make a name for it.