Talk:Great chain of being

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Should this be capitalised to Great Chain of Being ? Dunc_Harris| 21:05, 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

"so American Christian culture conceives of angels in orders of archangels, seraphim, and cherubim, among others." There is no single American Christian culture. Who, specifically, in America classifies angels in this manner, and how is this somehow distinctly American? --Cholling 00:49, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  • Agreed. As the article points out, this order long preceeds the founding of the USA. I can find no evidence it has any greater significance in American Christianity than in any other form. I removed it. Corvus 19:15, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)

In American Anatomies, Robin Wiegman discusses the implication of this theory in the history of scientific racism: "This emphasis on mutability was especially important in the context of eighteenth-century obsessions with the Great Chain of Being.... In its reemergence as a racially based delineation, the Great Chain propelled countless discussions about the relationship between man and ape, crafting specific arguments for the African's cosmic subordinacy by positioning him as intervening between the two" (29). Information on the damage caused by the great chain theory seems lacking in this article.

Fish And Birds Above Land Animals?[edit]

According to the pic, this is the case. Fish and birds are above land animals (such as mammals)? That doesn't really make much sense considering the fact that mammals are closer to humans. Then again religious philosophy doesn't have to make sense. Zachorious 05:36, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

As for birds, it might because most of them can fly(and send messages, which would make them somewhat similar to angels.) --Anglius 03:04, 7 January 2007 (UTC)
fish too have the same reason. some early prophets suggested the Kingdom of God might be in the sea.

It's derived from the Ptolemaic model of the universe, with the earth (mistakenly of course) being at the center. The further one was from the center of the earth (hell, of course), the closer one was to God, and this had to do with all entities. bleckb 03:51, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

ladybirds and dragonflies[edit]

In the article it states:

Below them come insects, with useful insects such spiders and bees, and attractive creatures such as ladybirds and dragonflies at the top,

However, both ladybirds and dragonflies are both also considered to be "useful insects" (at least today), and valued as predators that helps control the populations of harmful insects (dragonflies control mosquitoes; ladybirds control aphids). Could this have been a consideration at the time? —Pengo 00:47, 31 January 2007 (UTC)


In the picture depicting the Great Chain of Being, it shows Satan falling on the right of the picture, and shows demons at the bottom. Is this meant to depict Satan as "lower than dirt"? In the Great Chain of Being, is Satan depicted as being at the bottom of the chain, or not part of the chain at all?--RLent 22:32, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Though I was unable to find solid references, Christian theologists such as C. S. Lewis (in The Screwtape Letters) often depict demons and Satan as a reverse hierarchy; lesser demons were above greater demons, who were above Satan (the lowest of all). Zhouzhenning 02:40, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Open Bracket[edit]

"In the natural order, earth (rock is at the bottom of the chain; these elements possess only the attribute of existence. Moving on up the chain, each succeeding link contains the positive attributes of the previous link, and adds (at least) one other. Rocks, as above, possess only existence; the next link up, plants, possess life and existence. Beasts add not only motion, but appetite as well." I'm not sure what was intended by placing the opening bracket there in the first place but the author never closed it.

Bracket closed and sealed with adhesive :) —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Richard001 (talkcontribs) 23:24, 8 April 2007 (UTC).

LOTR analogy?![edit]

Does anyone else find the LOTR analogy to be a bit distracting? jrcagle 17:11, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Mythological animals and their places on the scale[edit]

Mythical creatures with four legs and wing were considered above birds but below four-legged animals, this being one of the reasons the system was abandoned. It was originally thought that these creatures must exist, but in the 1800s it became clear that they probably didn't. I don't have a source for this, but it's one of the main reasons for its demise and should be added. Djlayton4 | talk | contribs 18:19, 5 September 2007 (UTC)


There's not historical information in this article, talking about how the notion came about or where it originated. Or, at least, it's not obvious. Nate Berkopec 22:58, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Even looking at the linked articles, it seems that this could be a relatively recent name applied to any piece of writing that has the general idea. I'd like to see references to people who actually used "chain of being" or "scala naturae" about their own ideas rather than "somebody's something reflects the idea of the chain." For example, Milton's angels may well reflect "chain of being" but the phrase doesn't appear in Paradise Lost. Myridon (talk) 16:48, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

Lower than dirt[edit]

The claim that

A reference to the Great Chain of Being that survives in today's English language is the insult that one is "lower than dirt," which refers to dirt's place at the bottom of the Chain.

Seems highly dubious to me. The metaphor of being "lower than dirt" is natural in many cultures, even those without the notion of a great chain of being. For example ancient near eastern texts (including Isaiah 10:6) talk of enemies being trampled under the feet of victors into dirt.

An obvious reference is missing link, coined by Charles Lyell in direct reference to the "chain of being", particularly to the "missing links" linking humans to the animals. Petter Bøckman (talk) 20:36, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

"Great Chain of Being" supports an immutable order unmentioned in the entry[edit]

I believe that one of the key points about the Great Chain of Being has been missed or overlooked in this article. That is, a subsidiary political function of the Great Chain of Being is to keep everyone in his place and to forbid the ability of one to rise from the status into which he was born into a higher order.

While not intended to theologically, the actual functioning of the Great Chain of Being assured that the nobility would be secure in their positions and would not be challenged by those lower in the Chain's hierarchy. That's why we see no attempts to "rise by one's bootstraps" until the demise of the Great Chain of Being sometime during the 17th Century. We can see evidence of this in the history of literature during the times. It was not until the 17th century that poets and authors began to criticize the Great Chain of Being, or even try to defy it.

Matha Redburne- i believe that the chain of being is an attempt made by the Elizabethans to give order or degree to the vostness of creation. The chain of being was the belief that GOD created everything in the universe in a strict heirachy or chain that stretched from GOD at the top to the lowests organisms on earth. It is a very fascinating subject in which occurs naturally. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:50, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

The article does a good job of narrowly explaining the concept of the Great Chain of Being but fails to provide the reader with the effect of the universal belief in the Great Chain of Being in keeping society static for hundreds of years. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dickgrote (talkcontribs) 16:26, 3 August 2009 (UTC)


Can someone change the content of this article so that it is gender neutral. There is many references to God as "him", or other references to "mankind", etc. Please replace with him/her, or humankind. This is 21st century, please get with the times. And I understand the topic and content the article is addressing stems from a time of gender inequality, hence all the concepts and terms are masculanized. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:50, 9 November 2009 (UTC)

The word 'mankind' is gender neutral (see man (word)) and in Christian theology God is also considered masculine (or at least to be referred to with a masculine pronoun). (talk) 09:04, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

01:51, 15 February 2010 (UTC) Sexism is not a concept even addressed until the indroduction of American political philosophy and the Christian thoelogical gudeline, the Bible, responds to God as being gender-specific, male. Also, Jesus, upon whom christainity is based, was male. The idea of sexism when refering to this topic is idiotic. Please understand that a viewpoint of the philosophers of the time period is nessasary when studing philosophy. Basically- please shut your pie-hole and make a intelligent remark. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:51, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

Fallen Angels and Demons[edit]

Aren't the demons at the very bottom of the Scala Naturae? As in, below the minerals? That's the way it looks in the illustration, but they're listed as being above mankind in the article. Wouldn't that be a little... I dunno, blasphemous for the Christians to place fallen angels over humanity? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:01, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

What bothered medieval christians most is not the fact that they demons are more divine, but the fact that they don't fill in their role as 'more perfect' than humans. The scala naturae had to be solid, and alchemy (turning lower minerals into gold) was seen as blasphemous for the same reason as angels falling into this 'low' behavior. -- (talk) 08:24, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Historical Backing[edit]

This article currently indicates that the Chain of Being is a purely Christian creation. However it has been discussed since Aristotle. The first article of the Lovejoy article is explicitly about that. I can't write that section write now, but I think that this article is currently lacking in the historical background of the concept. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:38, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I have corrected the article accordingly.--Taiwan boi (talk) 05:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Historical Context[edit]

This article needs historical context and/or to be reviewed for verb tense consistency. The tone of the article suggests this is current modern day working doctrine of Christianity. Which I am given to understand that it is not. In 30+ years as a Christian no one has ever discussed "The Great Chain of Being" at any church I've ever attended and there have been a few of those. (talk) 01:16, 7 August 2011 (UTC)M. Parker


This article was found vandalized on 9/21/12, and the inappropriate markings deleted by me, from the first sentence of the main body.Cdg1072 (talk) 19:30, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

Great Circle[edit]

Mandala is a starkly contrasting cosmology, and each article should mention the other in the lede. Doing so answers Kipling's conundrum as expressed in "The Ballad of East and West." --Pawyilee (talk) 14:38, 11 March 2013 (UTC)


Along the article, the concept of “Primate” (Primas in Latin) is applied, amongst others, to the Seraph in the Angelical Kingdom, to the Lion in the Animal Kingdom, to the Oak in the Vegetal Kingdom, and to the Diamond in the Mineral Kingdom. Could anybody explain where this piece of information comes from? The Summa Theologica, by Thomas Aquinas, is mentioned as a source, but I have checked it and nothing is said about that. Unless somebody can prove the use of the word Primas to refer to the highest levels of the different Kingdoms of Nature in the Middle Ages, all mentions of Primates should be deleted and the article completely modified. (talk) 09:57, 24 April 2014 (UTC)Vasconicus

Rewrite Needed[edit]

This article needs to be trashed and restarted. For example, the lede should be something like:

  • The Great Chain of Being is a concept introduced by Arthur Lovejoy in his 1936 book of the same name, etc.

Eleuther (talk) 02:30, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Confusion of ladders[edit]

I was searching for the "Cosmological ladder", by which I had in mind the ladder of distances. I was redirected here, the "ladder" being the "chain" of being. It did confuse me as to why I was directed here, and left we wondering what I should have entered: "Cosmic", rather than "Cosmological", and specify "distance". I thought that adding the hatnote "for" would be of help to others who would be subject to a similar confusion. The other alternative that I thought of was to change the redirection of "Cosmological ladder", perhaps to a disambiguation to a choice of "Great chain of being" or "Cosmic distance ladder". I chose the hatnote here as being the simplest and least bothersome to those comfortable with things as they are. TomS TDotO (talk) 11:21, 27 February 2017 (UTC)

I see. A disambig. page might be best, if anything is needed at all - would anyone actually think of typing in "Cosmological ladder" for the great chain of being? "Scala naturae", perhaps, if they're classically educated, or reading old texts. Why don't we simply change the redirect of "Cosmological ladder" to ladder of distances, and put in a "see also" there to Scala naturae if you think that likely to help anybody. Chiswick Chap (talk) 11:30, 27 February 2017 (UTC)
My first thought was, 'Why would anyone think of typing in "Cosmological ladder" for the Great Chain of Being?' But obviously someone has, so who am I to judge. Your comment emboldens me, so I'm just going to change the redirection to "Cosmic distance ladder". I see no need to mention "Scala naturae" tnere. Thank you. TomS TDotO (talk) 12:15, 27 February 2017 (UTC)