Blumenberg: on bringing myth to an end

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This paper offers an account of Hans Blumenberg’s unique approach to myth. §1 shows that Blumenberg’s thought on myth, like his thought on metaphor, has been widely misconstrued. §2 argues that Blumenberg’s account of myth should be seen as part of the discussion of non-conceptuality. It explains that Blumenberg, invoking conceptuality’s epistemic limitations, challenges modern philosophy’s denigration of non-conceptuality. Blumenberg argues that conceptuality should not be understood in terms of mathematical-scientific rationality, but more broadly, and claims that myth and metaphor are themselves conceptual. When conceptuality is understood broadly, what is taken to be quintessentially non-conceptual can be seen to be conceptual. §3 examines Blumenberg’s nuanced characterization of myth, focusing on the key notions of ‘work on myth’ and ‘work of myth’, and showing that the corresponding distinction between structure and function is insufficient to define myth. §4 explores ‘significance’ (Bedeutsamkeit), the additional concept needed to fully characterize myth. ‘Significance’ comes to light in the encounter between myth and myth’s deployment in subjective life experiences. Whether there can be an end to myth is discussed in §5. Cartesian rationalism and German Idealism were touted as bringing myth to an end, but Blumenberg contends that myth’s functional role in human life precludes its elimination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1251
Number of pages16
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2023


  • Bedeutsamkeit
  • Blumenberg
  • metaphor
  • myth
  • non-conceptuality
  • significance

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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