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Great Chain Of Being

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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 expected of his people. He states that "Since the government is necessary for the public good, and God himself has established it, it is consequently also necessary for those who are subject to government, to be submissive and obedient". When Domat said this I kept thinking about Lucifer and how he betrayed God. It's the same case if his people rebel against the King it's like rebelling against God. By doing this they were not going to be thrown at of heaven and never be able to get close to God.. This reasserts my point that the king was God and everything he says is the will of God..

Another interesting aspect of this Great Chain of Being was how the King is suppose to rule and how his subjects respond to him. The King has the power of God and he must make sure to not allow this power to become corrupt. In Domat's paper he talks about how its important for the King to have a strong relationship with his people. Domat states "For otherwise they would resist God himself, and the government, which should be the bond of peace and unity that brings about the public good, would become an occasion for divisions and disturbances that would cause it's downfall". Through the reading Domat continually states that even though a King is the at the top and cannot be prosecuted by anyone, he still must not be corrupt and must rule to the vision of God. The King has an extremely important power and he must due all that he can in order to remain just and fair. By doing this, the King and his people can prosper and work together in a harmonious relationship. Eventually overtime, this Great Chain of Being idea began to come under question. During the Enlightenment many the Great Chain of Being came under attack with many people arguing that the king could be corrupt and called for the rise of natural rights.

During the period of the Enlightenment, many people began to question this idea of Chain of Being. Many



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