On the non-existence of Bielefeld and more
by Giovanni Canino
- philoegokosmosopher -
If the last words are the most important because they remain engraved in the mind, they are the ones that close an argument, offer answers, solutions, questions, doubts, confirmations or nothing, being able to alter the future, the way of thinking or feeling reality by pushing into one direction or another or getting lost forever in the memory’s oblivion, then the first words are the most difficult to choose because they must be the force that generates the impulse to continue, to move forward, they must generate the desire to know where you will arrive at the end of all those letters one after the other, they must stimulate the interest of knowing the reasons that could be the right ones that you were looking for, they must stoke the fire of reason without triggering a devastating blaze in which everything ends lost.
The task to be carried out is difficult, the demonstration of Bielefeld's non-existence by providing exhaustive proof, despite being the acme of a joke’s evolution, it is certainly not a joke itself.
To help us along the way towards what seems to be an impossible goal to reach will be the tools of reason, every idea and every reasoning must be clear and distinct, they must not leave room for doubt or ambiguity. Everyone who follow us will eventually have to think: so it is true, Bielefeld does not exist.
Bielefeld, at the end of this demonstration, with its non-existence proven, will not be less than it was before, it will be the same and then it will be more, because a new meaning will be linked to its name.
To whet the curiosity, which is the great engine of knowledge, taking a glimpse at the map of this intrepid path, I can say that starting from Bielefeld to arrive to the demonstration of the non-existence of Bielefeld, around us we will perceive the non-existence of Berlin, of Rome, of Paris and of every other city.
It is important to clarify, regarding the specific case of Bielefeld that was the generating impulse to write this philosophical impromptu, that if the existence of cities is asserted then a so-called fake city also exists. A theatrical or cinematographic set with all its sceneries, its walk-ons, its cars with fake license plates, its fake telephones, even if they were made of papier-mâché, would be a human settlement as much as Tokyo, and if one exists then the other exists as well. To show that Bielefeld does not exist the only way to go is to demonstrate that all distinct cities do not exist.
With the non-existence of Bielefeld will be demonstrated the non-existence of every other city and to guide us in this will not be the ancient Latin phrase 'commune naufragium omnibus solatio est' because, around us, the demonstration of the non-existence will not leave ruins or destruction, neither of reality nor of thought, but it will build a new way of understanding the world, with no maybe, better.
Perhaps due to a strange coincidence in the fate of Bielefeld one of its first illustrious citizens, if not the first, was a philosopher, Johann Christoph Hoffbauer and Johann is the same name, in its German version, as that of who will demonstrate the non-existence of Bielefeld, also with the help of a lot of philosophy.
TO EXIST, OR NOT TO EXIST, THAT IS THE QUESTION
It is not enough to use the reductio ad absurdum like Γοργίας to prove the non-existence of Bielefeld and all other cities. Nothing exists, according to the ancient philosopher, and it is true that a non-being cannot exist, but before moving forward we must understand the fundamental difference that exists between being and existing, between essence and existence. I believe it is not necessary here to go too far and risk losing ourselves in the ontological mazes to understand this difference, but to simply grasp the pure meaning of the words we use.
Essence is that which makes a certain thing what it is, and not something else, it is what determines the nature of a thing.
Essence is the universal nature of individual things belonging to the same genus or species, it is that which determines what things really are. The essence, which is permanent, is opposed to accident; accident indicates a single contingent determination, variable, and although it belongs to something, it does not constitute its very nature.
Existence comes from being, in Latin two words merged and named the concept we use here: "ex", meaning from, after, because of, which indicates an origin, and the verb "to be/to stand". Existence is the contingent manifestation of being, the relationship is clearly subordinated, everything that exists, necessarily is, but not all that is, necessarily exists.
Existence is an accident of the essence and it is the common accident of all perceived reality. The existence is at the base, it supports the perceived reality, hence the possibility of calling it also substance.
To demonstrate Bielefeld's non-existence I will not push you into the arms of extreme scepticism, there will be no René Descartes' evil demon to deceive you, nor will I try to convince you that your brain is in a vat where it receives impulses that make it believes that an illusion is reality. I don't know how to summon demons and I don’t have the necessary neurosurgical skills, at least for now, in order to remove a brain, but above all I think that using such stratagems would make this no longer a fair game.
To confuse ourselves in the world of illusion, of deception, would only create an intellectual impasse, no certainty of being able to deny, no certainty of being right. Here we do not want to conspire with demons or crazy surgeons, and do not attempt to it at home alone because it seems quite dangerous, here we look for the truth, that truth that even though does not silence the mouths of fools, at least frees us from the temptation to listen to their singing.
What is Bielefeld? Bielefeld is the proper name of a place or, wanting to be less precise, it is a city. In this demonstration, to leave no doubt about Bielefeld's non-existence, we will analyze both hypotheses.
A place is a part of space ideally or materially delimited. Village, city, metropolis, and other possible variations, are all terms that indicate a human settlement. Different words are used based on strange rules or not clearly defined variations in size. In this demonstration we will use the term city to refer generically to every type of human settlement. What is a city? Historically considering the Urbe and the legend of its birth we can see that to define the city of Rome it took two people, one of whom died therefore we could reduce it to a single individual, and the furrow of a plow to delimit something, specifically the Palatino Hill. Based on that we can confidently state here that to have a human settlement only a human being and a delimited space are needed, the dead is superfluous, accidental, it would be good to avoid it.
In a demonstration where the object is a human settlement we can use without error a sort of mathematical induction. In summary, no matter how many living things or physical things are added or removed, the demonstration will always apply in all cases.
We begin the path of this demonstration by entering the dark forest of what a proper name of a city is, like Bielefeld.
Without getting too involved in the incomplete ontological-linguistic debate on proper names, let's try to extract from it some valuable knowledge to add as gems to the treasure of our knowledge.
In the Frege-Russell's view – the descriptivist theory of proper names – proper names are abbreviated definite descriptions. What does this mean? It means that those who use a proper name actually use it as an abbreviation for a defined set of properties that they want to use to determine a specific object. For example, those who use the proper name "Rio Amazonas", when they do it they are referring to a certain set of properties, variable according to knowledge, which could be something like "that water stream that begins in the Andean Mountains in Peru and flows into the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil" or "a water stream that is 6400 km long".
In Saul Kripke's view – the causal theory of reference – and of those who follow this theory, a proper name is a rigid designator, that is, it designates the same object in all possible worlds in which that object exists and never designates anything else. In this view proper names do not imply any knowledge of a defined set of properties and resemble demonstratives and pronouns in their nature.
Sorting out the linguistic controversy is beyond the scope of this demonstration. Here it will simply be shown how the geographical proper name of a human settlement has exclusive features and how, taking into account either one of the theories, it can be shown that in any case it does not exist.
We begin the work starting from Bielefeld, a city, a common human settlement, we will analyze the extreme cases of the smallest and the largest human settlements subsequently.
According to the descriptive theory one should be able to find a defined set of properties that describe the object. Analyzing carefully it can be seen that in the set of properties, among the accidents, there should always be present the essence of the object.
Returning to the example of the "Rio Amazonas", without ignoring that such proper name refers to a complex ecosystem, the property that defines its essence is to be a water stream. Once the water is removed, the "Rio Amazonas" ceases to exist. Removing the rock essence of Mount Everest, it would cease to exist. Considering any living being, with proper name or without, one can easily understand that the end of its life implies the end of its existence. Romulus, by killing Remus, puts an end to his existence and only a cadaver remains. The fundamental essence of living beings is life.
In a defined set of properties obviously we can make references to multiple essences, but for everything that exists there will always be a fundamental essence that determines a specific existence. We can define Aristotle as "the teacher of Alexander III of Macedon", but we can also be sure that, by stopping to teach Alexander, Aristotle does not cease to exist. Let's move quickly from Macedon to Bielefeld. What is the essence of Bielefeld, if Bielefeld exists? Everyone will have a different answer: its citizens, its territory, its buildings, its beauty, its parks, its streets, its administration, and add as many other answers as you want.
Now let's try a simple mental exercise. Remove the content of your answer from your idea of Bielefeld and check whether Bielefeld disappears with it. I intentionally did not use the verb to exist because, as can be assumed, that which does not exist cannot stop existing.
Done. Questions and answers await farther.
We now turn our attention to the causal theory of reference. The centrality in it belongs to the functional aspect of the name, and remember that it must be a rigid designator for the same object in all the possible worlds in which that object exists and it must never designate anything else. This kind of correspondence is not biunique.
Let's go back to Rome for a moment to consider a period after the death of Romulus in which the extension of the city included all seven hills and not only the Palatine Hill. Neither the human being nor the delimited space are the same. The object of the original designation no longer exists, but the city continues to be called Rome. I used the example of Rome to show clearly that the name continues to be present despite the fact that everything that determined its original being ceased to exist. The territory of Rome suffered significant changes, enlargements and reductions, along its history and we can imagine that if, for any reason, it should lose the Palatine Hill as part of its territory, even if only administratively, no violent destruction is required, Rome would continue to be Rome. And from this reasoning we understand that it is not even the territory that determines a city. It is said that all roads lead to Rome, let’s travel the right one in the opposite direction and return to Bielefeld.
What is Bielefeld then? Or refining the question according to the view of causal theory, what is the function of the name Bielefeld?
When we use a proper name, usually, it refers to a specific object. We will show that this does not apply in the case of proper names of cities. The function of a city name is between that of a pronoun, used to indicate a variable set of elements or properties, and that of an adverb, similar to there or here, but less specific, we could say "approximately here" or "approximately there". To understand why it is less specific, let's analyze a simple example. "The inhabitants of Bielefeld" - the referent of this expression is "the people who most frequently or probably can be found in the space I call Bielefeld". The inhabitants of any city sometimes work in another city, sometimes they have a home in another city, they go on holiday to another city, sometimes they simply have their residence there and sometimes many who live in a city are not inhabitants of it. Considering these cases, the expression “the inhabitants of Bielefeld” vaguely defines elements that should be inside a given space and that instead could be outside of it. When we say "this theater here" or "that theater there" we perceive them and then at least partially we know what we are talking about. When we talk about the "Bielefeld’s theater" we could be talking about something that we have never seen, that we don't know if exists and of which we may have no knowledge at all. Even today a lot of people speak of Atlantis, without discerning whether it was a real place or a simple literary invention of the great Plato. I believe these examples clearly show the vagueness of meaning of cities proper names. Just as there and here do not exist since they are simple signs that change meaning frequently according to the intentions of those who use them, in the same way cities names do not exist, since we could consider them as subsets of the "there" and "here" sets.
Before continuing with the real substance of this demonstration, I would like to briefly digress with a small peri-theological diversion. Suppose cities exist. It is easy to believe that cities like Bielefeld, Rome and Paris exist, being sure that they are present where they are, available to the test of everyone's senses. Let’s now evaluate some more complex cases, still assuming that cities exist. Byzantium existed, Constantinople as well, but does anyone think they still exist today, or is it Istanbul that exists? Does Ilion / Τροία exist? Does Desterro exist? Does Königsberg exist or does Kaliningrad? Königsberg and Kaliningrad cannot refer to the same material things and exist both. Let's better analyze this last example. The descriptions of the two cities cannot be the same. The properties that characterize them are different, the first was a Prussian city, the other Russian, the inhabitants are obviously not the same, few things are shared by the two cities, because the first was significantly destroyed during one of the too many and too stupid wars. The two names cannot refer to the same thing or, better, to the same set of things. The two cities are two different cities therefore none of them exist or one has ceased to exist and the other has begun to exist, because a property of matter is that of impenetrability by which two bodies, or parts of them, cannot simultaneously occupy the same portion of space.
Still supposing that cities exist and setting aside their non-existence, already knowing that when its definition changes, the object of reference is clearly different and we cannot continue to affirm its existence, let’s analyze some more particular examples: the cities of Giarre and Riposto, the places where I lost the years of my youth, had been separated in 1841 and then were reunited in a new city called Ionia for some years and then separated again; Thessaloniki in ancient Macedon became Selanik in the Ottoman Empire to return Thessaloniki in Greece; Oslo in Norway was renamed Christiania when it was rebuilt after a fire in 1624 and then returned to being called Oslo; Saint Petersburg became Petrograd, then Leningrad, then again Saint Petersburg. Is today's Thessaloniki the same Thessaloniki? Is Oslo the same despite having been destroyed and rebuilt? Christiania was different in both matter and space. If we admitted that a city could exist, cease to exist, be replaced in its own space by another city, and then finally return to exist again, we would be practically admitting the resurrection of cities. And no existing entity, after the end of its existence, can begin to exist again as the same entity. It can certainly transform itself and be a different entity, but not the same. If it were the same we would abandon the field of science to enter the ambit of miracles and we should ask the opinion of theologians about this kind of resurrection, considering that Saint Petersburg resurrects and Christiania no, there could be serious problems.
Now let's start with the most interesting part of this demonstration. I am sure that among the readers there are still many who are not totally convinced of the non-existence of cities. They probably think that I tried to play with words, distracting them with names and meanings and, as in a sleight of hand, like some kind of magic, I made all the cities of the world disappear. To those who think that cities exist because they are made not of vain words, but of real people, solid bricks, parks abundant with flora and fauna, roads, parking lots and traffic jams, efficient services, busy administrations and yadda yadda yadda, to those who do not want to accept the truth is dedicated the coup de grâce to the existence of cities.
We will now analyze cities as physical objects, or better, as sets of physical objects. During its evolution, a city can grow, shrink, join other cities to form a larger one, or it can be divided into smaller cities, it can be destroyed and rebuilt, it can be abandoned and repopulated.
Imagine now any city, Bielefeld for example. Imagine it with as many details as possible, houses, squares, people, streets and now let's start a little experiment. If a person from Bielefeld moved to Berlin and began to live there, this person would become part of the city of Berlin, not of Bielefeld anymore, but Bielefeld would continue to be Bielefeld. The same would happen in the case of a diaspora of all citizens and the same would happen if we began to move objects, a stone, a tree, a house, a neighborhood. Bielefeld would continue to be Bielefeld, but until when?
Now let's go back and try something more extreme. Go back to your original complete Bielefeld and imagine, if it were possible, to enclose in an imaginary outline all that is part of it, all the houses, all the streets, all the people, all the animals, all the plants, even the air, the climate, the clouds, all its land for meters and meters underground, even to the center of the earth if you want, really everything, up to the last grain of dust that you think is part of the city. And now imagine it is possible to move all this and put it on another place, perhaps on the Sicilian coast, between the sea and the Etna, maybe in the place of Acireale for which would be difficult to feel any saudade, as Brazilians say. Let us stop to observe the result of this move.
In Sicily we will have everything that was present in Bielefeld and not an atom less, and where there was Bielefeld there is now a completely empty space. Is the city on the Sicilian coast still Bielefeld? Did Bielefeld exist as matter and continue to exist because its matter continues to exist? I really do not think so. This city is no longer in Germany or in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region, it would be now on an island and at the foot of a volcano, its distance from Primstal, from Berlin, from Paris, would be different, and it would be difficult to go there by car without taking a ferry, at least for now. There would still be houses and people, but many relationships and meanings in Bielefeld would now be lost and for those who saw it, unaware of the move that had taken place, it could seem to them, without offense to Bielefeld, like a new Acireale. Many meanings and relationships have remained there where now is a big empty space and we can be sure that in absolute void there is no existence. If Bielefeld's existence had been in its matter, it would have been taken with it, but it was not so, because Bielefeld is not the same Bielefeld anymore. One can imagine variations of this move. Imagine that a new part has been added to the city of Bielefeld, some neighborhoods, and an instant after its aggregation you moved everything else excluding that new part. I prefer moving instead of destructing. Which of the two cities is Bielefeld? The part that was Bielefeld for centuries and now is located in another place in the world, or what was Bielefeld for just an instant and is still where Bielefeld has always been?
If we took a sheep from a flock and moved it to another flock, the sheep would always be itself and continue to exist. The same happens if we move a man, a book or a house or any other object. It is clear that the parts of Bielefeld considered individually continue all to exist, but a city is not an object, it is the relationship of a set of objects with a given space, changing the space the relationship ends. From the existences of the distinct elements of a set of objects does not derive the existence of the very set. By placing a snake on the tail of a lion and a goat on its back, a chimera will not begin to exist. Space is all the reality itself and it is easy to get lost inside of it, so we continue inventing methods to orient ourselves. A collection of names like Bielefeld, a system of coordinates, longitudes and latitudes, an X on a map, all serve the same purpose. Although Bielefeld does not exist, those who love it need not worry, removing the X from the treasure map does not remove the treasure. You just have to figure out where to find it.
Like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected this irrefutable proof. During the course of this demonstration we have understood that Bielefeld and all the other cities do not have an essence from which existence can derive, they do not exist as names and do not even exist as matter, but then why when we see Bielefeld or any other city we know that it is a city?
I love ideas and they will be the object of this final clarification. Ideas are a mental identifier categorizing abstract objects and concepts, to prove that none, some or all ideas exist is beyond the scope of this demonstration, but to dispel any doubt we will prove that what could be called Bielefeld's idea cannot exist.
We have already shown how the immensely undefined nature of a city can make it vary from a perimeter chosen by a man to the city-states or megalopolises or even more, from a small set of objects and individuals to a very large set of them.
Just as it is not possible to find the essence of a particular city, it is not possible to find an idea that represents it, because ideas must be clear and distinct, as Descartes rightly stated, and nothing can allow us to clearly distinguish a city from another if not the specific space in which each is found, but space is the frame of the matter, not part of it, space includes physical reality, the totality of reality and a lot more, if it were an idea, it would be all possible ideas, without any distinction. So why do we see a city as such if we don't have an idea with which to identify it?
Follow me again on a journey, let’s start from the center of Bielefeld and begin to move away, observing reality without considering the spatial dimensions, admiring everything we perceive, ignoring magnitudes and distances. We will see houses, roads, people, parks, other houses, other roads, let us move farther away again with the power to continue seeing everything, we will see other houses, industries, cultivated fields, other roads, forests, other fields, and still houses, and water, and trees, and other houses, other industries, other cultivated fields, people, mountains, rocks, houses, roads, houses, sand, water, so much water but then again sand, houses, and then again roads, fields, forests, people; I hope I don't have to go on forever to make you understand that only by looking at something, the way we should look at it, in its totality, can we understand its true being: the world is a one big city.
We have destroyed the idea of Bielefeld and all the other cities but we have not destroyed the idea of the city itself, if ideas exist, it continues to exist. The idea of a human settlement is older than Jericho, Aleppo, Ur or Uruk, it arises when the first human beings simply stopped exploiting the world and began to take care of the earth to produce their own food with the beginning of agriculture. This great step in the evolution of human beings could perhaps also mark the beginning of their true existence as inhabitants of the planet, according to the Heideggerian conception that true existence as inhabitants is not to be simply thrown into the world, but it derives fundamentally from taking care of it. The existence of all of us inhabitants of the world, if this was still not clear enough, is taking care of it, or at least it should be, because if we don't change course, humanity will soon reach its imaginary cities in the domain of non-existence.
I cannot foresee how these thoughts of mine, expressed in words in a language that I certainly do not fully master, will be received. I was able to polish just a little this work and I hope I have not sacrificed neither the style nor the clarity.
The era in which we live is not the era of reason, and if Francesco Petrarca lived today perhaps he would redefine the dark ages. Among stupid networks of stupids, functional illiterates, conspiracy theories, flat-earthers, denialists of climate change, of vaccines, of science and of intelligence, it seems that the reasoning for the sake of knowledge is really out of place.
I firmly believe that we must transform every possibility into the need to improve ourselves and improve everything, guided by this principle I wrote this demonstration not only with the intent of demonstrating the non-existence of Bielefeld to end an old bad joke and improve my life in doing so, but also to try to improve the world in which we all live and if the words that follow can make at least one more person see the world differently then, humbly, but not too humbly, I will have succeeded.
The stupor mundi from Swabia of his origins shone in Sicily and perhaps it is time to amaze the world again.
I am Sicilian and yes I specify that after having said that there is only one big city, because I am not referring to Sicily for its geographical position at the center of all the continents, but for its history, the history of a land always conquered, but never defeated, that from every invasion has managed to take more and more than what has been taken away: culture. I belong to the only race that exists, the purest hybrid human race. From the identical nothing is acquired, only through diversity we can overcome ourselves. I am culturally Sicilian, Greek, African, European, German, Arabic, French, Spanish, noetic and much more and what I am not I want to become, listening, learning, understanding, improving. And I don't want to be alone on this journey.
I am a migrant, living for many years in Brazil with my beloved wife, very far from that part of space where I was born. To give nourishment even to the hungry for romance I will say that from the first moment we met and kissed, we did not separate, not even for a day, at most for a few hours, from the first moment to today, I believe that few in the history of the world have been so united. And together we have decided to migrate again because justice, intelligence and life at the moment are no longer welcome in this country. But even if we wanted to, we could not move to Bielefeld and not because it does not exist, but because there are things far more absurd than the non-existence of cities. I, being European, could live in Germany, but my wife could not, since despite being our union legally recognized in Brazil it is not in Europe. To make it all the more absurd there is the fact that my wife is of German origin, her known ancestors for centuries lived in the city of Mettnich, another one of those cities that are no longer there, because following its union with Mühlfeld it became Primstal. Mettnich, a place a little over 300 kilometers from Bielefeld, places where according to the absurdity of some human laws she cannot live as it is. I am sorry to be able to improve Bielefeld only from afar, but as long as it is not intelligence that pervades all laws, such absurdities will be difficult to avoid, we live in an age in which static goods are moved and have more rights to movement than human beings who have always been migrants since their genesis. Nothing has separated me from my wife not even for a day and nothing will do it until I can avoid it.
As a Sicilian I have always suffered the prejudice of those who asked me where I was from and, hearing my answer, added, often laughing, "mafia, mafioso". I hate the mafia and every evil and I love justice and all good. Being associated with murderers and criminals of all sorts has always hurt me and made me deeply angry. I believe that many Germans can understand my feelings well, still suffering the terrible mark of Nazism on their skin, being associated with it even though they were not a part of it and even despise it.
Unfortunately there are criminals everywhere in the world, not only in Sicily and unfortunately there are more Nazifascists in the rest of the world than there have ever been in Germany. A Nazifascist, is not a German or an Italian, but the stupid and evil person who believes in those evil nazifascist stupidities. Mafioso, criminal, is not a laughable deduction derived from being Sicilian. Criminal is who commits crimes, who hurts the world or the beings that live in it and he should be stopped and punished. Criminals are not the migrants like me, because moving is logically not a crime, crime is for example letting someone die when one could help them live.
Who puts geographic discriminators first, before everything else, puts the nothing, an imaginary limit before all the rest, before life itself. Those who do this always do so to pursue an egoistic interest that is not that of the Kosmos. An interest that leads to choose evil for all others in order to receive [a] greater good[s] than everyone else. The difference between make great again and make a great gain is just a misprint.
Artificial islands, mobile homes, orbiting stations, ships loaded with thousands of people, submarine or underground settlements or bases on other planets: in the world everything is always transforming, everything moves and there are no limits marked by a plow.
We are all inhabitants of the same polis, we must take care of it and take care of each other.
Proving the non-existence of Bielefeld and all other cities, the imaginary limits that separated us as humanity were destroyed, but only this does not unite us. Once the limit has fallen, it is up to each one of us to recognize the other as similar, as part of our own being, we must want it, we must choose it. And then, yes, we will be able to live not in a simply improved world but really in the best of all possible worlds. Bielefeld, the first city to accept its non-existence will be in the vanguard of this revolution.
We are the choices we make and not the contingencies of our lives.