The Readability of the World represents Hans Blumenberg's first extended demonstration of the metaphorological method he pioneered in Paradigms for a Metaphorology. For Blumenberg, metaphors are symptomatic of patterns of thought and feeling that escape conceptual formulation but are nonetheless indispensable, because they allow humans to orient themselves in an otherwise overwhelming world. The Readability of the World applies this method to the idea that the world presents itself as a book. The metaphor of the book of nature has been central to Western interpretations of reality, and Blumenberg traces the evolution of this metaphor from ancient Greek cosmology to the model of the genetic code to access the different expectations of reality that it articulates, reflects, and projects.
Writing with equal authority on literature and science, theology and philosophy, ancient metaphysics and twentieth-century biochemistry, Blumenberg advances rich and original interpretations of the thinking of a range of canonical figures, including Berkeley, Vico, Goethe, Spinoza, Leibniz, Bacon, Flaubert, and Freud. Through his interdisciplinary, anthropologically sharpened gaze, Blumenberg uncovers a wealth of new insights into the continuities and discontinuities across human history of the longing to contain all of nature, history, and reality in a book, from the Bible, the Talmud, and the Qur'an to Diderot's Encyclopedia and Humboldt's Cosmos to the ACGT of the DNA code.