The Tao-te Ching begins by saying that:

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal and unchanging name.

Yet this ineffable origin of all things has much that is said of it, beyond the claim of its ineffability.

Let the world be all worlds together (the universe if that, the multiverse if otherwise). Might we think of the Tao as the haecceity of the world, as the "this-ness" of existence itself? As far as some X is unique, X cannot be named with other things; that is, the names it shares are not names of its haecceity.

Can the Tao be the haecceity of reality, or is saying so tantamount to naming the unnameable?

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    Just because two things are ineffable does not mean they have to be related. Haecceities of Duns Scotus are principles of individuation for the multitude of particulars. Tao is the opposite of that, the ultimate common nature if you want to analogize. The world has no need for a haecceity, there is nothing to individuate it from.
    – Conifold
    Apr 3, 2021 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


Haecceity as defined by wikipedia:

Haecceity is a term from medieval western scholastic philosophy, first coined by followers of Duns Scotus to denote a concept that he seems to have originated: the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing that make it a particular thing. Haecceity is a person's or object's thisness, the individualising difference between the concept "a man" and the concept "Socrates"

So Haecceity is only needed when we want to identify the particular from the universal. Since the Tao seems the enduring eternal natural laws which is universal in nature, it seems inappropriate to employ haecceity referring to the Tao. For me Tao seems a proper name here to try to refer to the ontological universal laws (not just mere existence qua existence) as an ostensive definition.

Based on thin line, the second statement (The name that can be named is not the eternal and unchanging name.) can be interpreted as more important than the first one. Why? Since Tao is just a name which is sense-based and has been clearly named as such, so Tao itself is not an eternal (correct) name, thus it actually becomes unnamable. So this formally proves that Haecceity is also not the correct name to be understood as Tao by these 2 propositions' logic of Tao-te Ching...

  • I'd agree with that. The Tao is the origin of all things and is not contingent on any or all of them, haecceity is the essential presence of a particular thing. Apr 3, 2021 at 8:17

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