How Do I Apprehend A Car?

Consider my neighbor’s dog, vs. my neighbor’s car.

His dog is a substance, a natural unit as Herbert McCabe would say; and the essence of his dog is the species dog. His car is not a substance; it is an accidental arrangement of substances, what McCabe would call an accidental unit. Not being a substance it can’t have a substantial form, so I presume it has the accidental form of a car.

Now, when I look at his dog, I apprehend the dog’s essence, its quiddity: it’s a dog.

When I look at his car, I apprehend a…what? Can an accidental arrangement, a heap, have an essence? I had thought not. And yet I apprehend a single thing, and what I apprehend is (or so I thought) the thing’s quiddity, which is to say its essence.

Either the terms essence and quiddity have a wider sense I was unaware of; or the concept I apprehend when I see my neighbor’s car is not a quiddity, but something else.

So what is it?

2 Responses to “How Do I Apprehend A Car?”

  1. The unity of an artifact comes from its final cause, or purpose; notice that’s an external cause, because it is given its form (it’s accidental gathering of these materials in this shape) for the sake of achieving its end – we make things to do something, and when we come on a new tool we’ve never seen, we ask, “what’s that for?” by which we will identify it in the future. As a proof of this, consider Monsters Inc, where Mikey comments to the Sullster that the reason he bought a car was to drive it, with a honk-honk and a vroom-vroom – an eloquent description of its “nature”, used analogously.

    Living things have an internal principle, a nature in the primary sense of the word.

    Looking is a form of apprehending, but of course we don’t see a quiddity except in an accidental way.

  2. Will says:

    OK, an artifact’s unity comes from its purpose: I can see that. An axe is for chopping, an car is for driving, a chair is for sitting on.

    But that doesn’t answer the question of just what it is I apprehend. Are you saying that when I see a car, I apprehend the act of driving? That doesn’t seem right.