Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great Chain of Being

In The Elizabethan World Picture, Tillyard places a great deal of focus upon the Great Chain of Being. Although we were introduced to the idea of this Chain last year in Mrs. Klebba’s class, Tillyard provides us with inordinate detail of the specifics of this concept. The most interesting thing about the Chain I learned is the idea of how each inferior link possesses one value superior to that of the greater link above it. For example, beasts are more powerful than humans, and humans have a greater capacity to learn than angels. What do you find most fascinating about the Great Chain of Being?


chrissy said...

I agree, Samantha. The fact that humans are in some ways superior to angels is very interesting. The most interesting part of the great chain of being for me is the humors. The idea that body fluids influence a person's disposition is very fascinating. The humors from my notes are
1. fire (yellow bile): hot and dry; angry, stubborn
2. earth (black bile): cold and dry; thoughtful, gloomy
3.air (blood): hot and moist; courageous, hopeful
4.water (phlegm): cold and moist; dull, plodding
It was a very strange thought the Elizabethans had. Correspondences they found between the natural universe and man were intriguing as well.

Chloe said...

Tillyard also focuses on the power of Correspondences, which is pertinent to understanding the Great Chain of Being. With several examples of correspondences, such as a microcosm and the body politic, or the linkage between macrocosm and microcosm, Tillyard illustrates that each of the correspondences relate to one another through a "primate" or leader of each group. These links in the chain are specifically connected via their mode of correspondence, such as planets with emotions, or stars with angels.

Olivia Celata said...

I find it interesting when the Elizabethans apply their theory of Correspondences and even the Great Chain to reality. They are striving after a unity of sorts, as seen by these structured orders. However, unlike that of the Medieval mind, the Elizabethans realized that their world is difficult to fit into a defined structure. So they allow for flexibility and the choice to interpret details.

efabio said...

I was also interested in the fact that angels cannot learn. What if God created something new, would they not learn of it? And the placement of humans below elements also seemed odd. I am not sure why the Elizabethan thinkers would put the elements above what they thought to be the perfect mixture of them.

C-Sted said...

The most interesting quality of the Great Chain of Being, to my mind, is the "similarity" of the ordering of degrees on a macrocosmic scale to the ordering on a microcosmic scale. In other words, the chain is self-similar in the same way that a fractal looks the same at any scale. The organization of human government reflects the organization of Heaven (relating to the concept of correspondences). I just find this concept interesting because it reminds me of a conceptual fractal.