Test Cover Image of:  When Maps Become the World

When Maps Become the World

Map making and, ultimately, map thinkingis ubiquitous across literature, cosmology, mathematics, psychology, and genetics. We partition, summarize, organize, and clarify our world via spatialized representations.Our maps and, more generally, our representations seduce and persuade; they build and destroy. They are the ultimate record of empires and of our evolving comprehension of our world.

This bookis about the promises and perils of map thinking. Maps are purpose-driven abstractions, discarding detail to highlight only particular features of a territory. By preserving certain features at the expense of others, they can be used to reinforce a privileged position.

When Maps Become the World shows us how the scientific theories, models, and concepts we use to intervene in the world function as maps, and explores the consequences of this, both good and bad.We increasingly understand the world around us in terms of models, to the extent that we often take the models for reality. Winther explains how in time, our historical representations in science, in cartography, and in our stories about ourselves replace individual memories and become dominant social narratives—theybecomereality, and they can remake the world.

Author Information

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther is a philosopher of science, researcher, writer, educator, diver, and explorer. He is the editor of Phylogenetic Inference, Selection Theory, and History of Science: Selected Papers of A. W. F. Edwards with Commentaries.


"An intriguing and often brilliant book, When Maps Become the World raises profound, even fundamental philosophical questions about ‘map thinking.’ The map is considered here as more than simply a scientific model or abstraction but as a kind of ‘metaperspective’ through which the world has been understood scientifically. This is an important book on how the map can be considered philosophically as a heuristic device that has enabled and constrained the development of scientific rationality."
— Michael Heffernan, University of Nottingham

Audience: Professional and scholarly;