Rüdiger Zill

The Absolute Reader - Hans Blumenberg. An Intellectual Biography

With numerous images
(German title: Der absolute Leser)
ca. 500 pages
Rüdiger Zill

Rüdiger Zill

Rüdiger Zill, born in 1958, studied Philosophy, History and Sociology in Berlin and London. After obtaining his doctorate and teaching at institutions such as the TU Dresden and the New School of Social Research in New York, he has been a scientific advisor at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam since 1997.

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»The claim of the author becomes absolute when he requisitions his reader all to himself without consideration for his schedule.« Hans Blumenberg

Hans Blumenberg: 100th birthday on July 13, 2020


Hans Blumenberg wanted to be known by his philosophy alone, and as a private person remain invisible to the public. Yet we can understand his world only by also considering the turmoils of his lifetime.

Persecuted during National Socialism because of his Jewish mother, shaped by the Catholic milieu of his father and a humanistic elite secondary school in Lübeck, he is ultimately a typical representative of the old Germany. An obsessive reader since his earliest childhood, he has devoured literature, philosophy, theology, natural sciences and history alike and used them to create an exceptional oeuvre.

Drawing on unexplored archival material from Blumenberg's literary estate as well as unpublished photographs, Ruediger Zill uncovers the biographical roots of Blumenberg’s oeuvre and presents it as less monolithic than it may appear at first glance. He shows instead that Blumenberg's work can only be understood by retracing the direct and indirect routes of his thoughts and by taking into account the developments of science in the second half of the 20th century. The Absolute Reader provides, for the first time, a comprehensive insight into the workshop of an author who like no other has meticulously documented the steps of progress in his work. Watching Hans Blumenberg over decades, learning what he is reading and observing how he designed and composed his books, can teach us a lesson about the fascinating craft of thinking itself.


»With impressive knowledgeability and a steady hand, Rüdiger Zill interweaves the different narrative threads. […] He traces […] the movements of a sweeping, experimenting philosophical curiosity that is on the search for a form – and always in exchange with what has been read.« Uwe Justus Wenzel, DIE ZEIT

»The subtitle – An Intellectual Biography – suggests that ideas and theoretical concepts dominated […] But what follows is so much more […]« Lothar Müller, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»For the foreseeable future Rüdiger Zill‘s biography is going to be absolutely essential for any engagement with this philosopher who was so taciturn on his personal matters.« Joe Paul Kroll, der Freitag

»[A] monumental biography« Micha Brumlik, taz. die tageszeitung

»[Rüdiger] Zill simply must be part of the shelf on Blumenberg« Helmut Mayer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Rüdiger Zill [...] describes Blumenberg’s life and work with so much elegance that the slight vertigo an unexperienced reader might feel lead to buoyancy rather than to a feeling of inadequacy.« Der Spiegel

»The author looks over the philosopher’s shoulder and shows how the craft of thinking worked.« Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»Those who understand the background of a historical process, who grasp the scopes of world concepts, world views and different understandings of the world are the ones pursuing philosophy. That’s how Blumenberg saw it. […] Blumenberg’s paths of thought are analysed by means of Blumenberg’s own questions and methods. A very nice idea [that has been] congenially realised.« Jörg Später, Deutschlandfunk

»[Zill accompanies Blumenberg‘s] lines of thought in lucid analytical chapters and offers a view upon a scholar, whose very existence was defined by expansive erudition and the deepest curiosity.« Oliver Vom Hove, diepresse.com