The unnameable or a vision of the world without observers.

In other words, what would the universe be like if there were no human beings? It would not have a name, no attributes; it would not make any sense. It would be as it is. What does that mean? It means just that, nameless. All the mountains, plains, animals, plants, seas, planets, stars, galaxies, empty spaces, quasars, black holes, etc. etc. and all of the thousands of other names which we have given to its various parts, these are all products of our imaginations, they are our inventions, only names, nothing more.

What does this mean? It means that all of the descriptions, definitions, ideas and representations which we have made for ourselves of the world, are only “ours”, including the definition that the world “is as it is”. We are the ones who describe the world and not the other way round. We are the ones who have an idea of the world, and not the other way round. We are the ones who are prisoners inside the world! Our vision is subjective and has nothing to do with whether it corresponds to reality or not. It is subjective, end of story. Realism, any type of realism, in this case, is always and in any case subjective realism, human, as we observe things.

At this level of interpretation, thought, reality and falsity become confused, they lose their meaning, the meaning which we gave them. The world, the true world, is unnameable. It cannot be described because any description is personal. In other words, the world does not have a name, but every imaginable and unimaginable name, it does not have a form, but every imaginable and unimaginable form, it does not have a definition, but every imaginable and unimaginable definition. This means that it does not have its own name. It is, exactly that, unnameable. You cannot say to Parmenidean scholars, “it is”, because such a Parmenidean “it is”, whatever it means, is always a human definition, therefore subjective, personal, Parmenidean.

Man began has been excogitating ideas about the world from the very beginning of human life. I would very much like to know how Homo habilis perceived the world 2.5 million years ago, but that is impossible. However, over the long intervening period, man, meaning Homo sapiens, has had many different iterations of understanding: animistic, chaotic, perfect, created by gods, created by one god, a world created by the imagination, ignorance, in short, a world of fairy tales and myths.

Then, much later again, man rethought the situation and his methods. He understood the world as consisting of four elements, pre-Socratic and pre-Aristotelian: water, air, land, fire. Later, in the 4th century B.C., Aristarchus, a Greek philosopher and scientist, posited the theory of heliocentrism, meaning that the Sun is stationary and at the centre of the universe.

Centuries after this, the Alexandrian astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy removed the Sun from the centre of the universe and put the Earth in its place. This Ptolemaic concept was defended for many centuries, until Copernicus, in the 1500s, returned once again to the Aristarchean theory of heliocentrism, putting the Sun back into the centre of the universe.

After Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, the 16th-century Italian physicist and astronomer, discovered sun spots, Jupiter and what we now call the Galilean moons, the phases of Venus, the rings of Saturn and the seas on the Moon, thus confirming the theory of Copernicus.

Johannes Kepler, who lived at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, freed the stars from the positions allocated to them in the Ptolemaic circles. Newton, during the 17th century, in his turn, developed the universal law of gravity and believed that the world was enclosed in a kind of gigantic box with some nuts inside which were attracted to each other.

Laplace, the 18th-century French mathematician and astrophysicist, corrected the errors in Newton’s theories on the orbits of planets, and maintained that they moved around the Sun, also postulating the theory of black holes.

Then came the phase of the entropy of the universe as proposed by Boltzmann in the 19th century, who declared that the universe was dying: the second law of thermodynamics leaves no doubt about this, describing how every celestial body consumes energy and that, when there is no energy left, it will die.

After this, there followed the stationary universe of Hoyle, Gold and Bondi in the 20th century. The Belgian physicist and astronomer, Georges Lemaître, who also lived during the 20th century, believed that the Earth began with a conflagration, the so-called Big Bang. Einstein confirmed the theory of the Big Bang and developed his own theory of relativity. Edwin Hubble disproved the theory of the stationary universe and demonstrated that the universe is expanding, in the so-called redshift, and that the galaxies are moving away from each other, thus confirming Lemaître’s Big Bang theory.

In 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, two American astrophysicists, discovered background cosmic radiation thus definitively confirming the Big Bang theory. Nowadays, the Big Bang is not spoken of any longer, but rather a number of big bangs in the infinite history of the cosmos, resulting in multiverses, meaning younger and older universes.

In this manner, but always according to our methods and interpretations, we have managed to explain to ourselves how the cosmos we live in works. But then, definitively, what do all these wonderful descriptions and definitions of the universe tell us? Nothing, absolutely nothing, is what the America philosopher John Searle would say. To put it in a nutshell: when man disappears off the face of the earth, and this will happen sooner or later, there will no longer be man’s fantasies, explanations, methods of calculation, nor his science nor his culture.

Therefore, we should ask ourselves this: before the birth of the world, was there a name to describe it? And we must answer that there was no such name. And then we should ask ourselves: when the world disappears, will there be a name to remember it by? No. And then, what will remain of it? Only its unnameableness. The universe is, in fact, unnameable.

 Translated from the Italian by Joy Elizabeth Avery. Tel: 015.703954; Email:


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