The quote originated from Marcus Aurelius who said:
"Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself, what is its nature?"
The most popular pop culture reference to this quote comes from the
Silence of the Lambs. Here is the context of the quote...
Lecter: Oh Clarice, your problem is, you need to get more fun out of life.
Clarice: You were telling me the truth back in Baltimore, sir.
Please continue now.
Lecter: I've read the case files. Have you? Everything you need
to find him is right there in those pages.
Clarice: Then tell me how.
Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus
Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: 'What is it in itself, what
is its nature?' What does he do, this man you seek?
Clarice: He kills women.
Lecter: (scolding sharply) No, that is incidental. What is the
first and principal thing he does, what needs does he serve by
Clarice: Anger, umm, social acceptance, and umm, sexual frustrations...
Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to
covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to
I could not find any references to Star Trek in my research although
it is very possible that the relevant script/scene may just not be
If your interested in more information about the author of the quote
itself, Marcus Aurelius a good place to start is the Wikipedia
biography on him.
Hope that answers your question. if you have any questions or need
something cleared up please request a clarification before rating my
answer and I'll be happy to look into it.
"What is it in itself? What is its Nature"