Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Great Chain of Being

One of the big ideas that remained in force from the classical period was the concept of the Great Chain of Being. Its major premise was that everything in the universe had its position in a divinely planned order, a hierarchy that looked like a vertical chain going from the most important and perfect - God - on top to the least important and imperfect - innanimate things like rocks - at the bottom.
came from ...

note that people thought all links had to be represented - the most perfect world contains the whole chain, and so imperfection is part of perfection ..
Literary ramifications - metaphors indicate something about status
political ramificiations - your social position is divinely ordained, obey or else
moral ramifications - upsetting the cart is a sin
Theological - the cause is more perfect than what it causes - there must be a cause for everything - the first cause can not be caused - hence God


E.M.W. Tillyard "The Elizabethan World Picture"
Arthur Lovejoy "The Great Chain of Being"

other sources

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