Great Chain of Being Paper
By: Brian Zwolinski
The Great Chain of Being is the concept that the order of the entire universe is under a very strict hierarchical system. The chain goes from god which represents perfection to the bottom level which are the minerals of the earth. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about this chain was that it was impossible for one to move from one level to the next. Wherever you stood in this chain is where you stood for the rest of your life. The way that each object is ranked in this chain was based on relative importance. For example, minerals are on the bottom of the chain because they solely exist. They are not living and cannot move. The next rank up would be that of plants. Plants possess both life and existence. Next would be beast, which is living, has the ability to move, and also possess appetite. Man is a special instance in this conception. He is both mortal flesh, and also spirit. In this paradox, the struggle between flesh and spirit becomes a moral one. The way of the spirit is higher, it brings one closer to God. The desires of the flesh drag one down. The Christian fall of the devil is especially terrible, because that angel is wholly spirit, who yet defies God, the ultimate perfection.
The Great Chain of Being was a concept that was used very prominently during the 1500's in France. During this time, absolutism was the main form of government. Absolutism was the idea that all sovereign power belongs to one king. The reason they King thinks he has this power is due to the ideas of divine right and the great chain of being. By using this idea, the King had complete authority over everyone and if anyone went against him he could state that this is similar to going against God himself. The king believed that he was the supreme ruler and he used this power to rule accordingly. Jean Domat's writing "Social Order and Absolute Monarchy" describes in detail what is expected of a ruler and what is...
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