chain of being

<history of philosophy, metaphysics, biology> belief that existing things can be hierarchically ordered, from least to greatest, in an unbroken series from inanimate particles of matter to the deity. A. O. Lovejoy traced this concrete application of the principle of plenitude from ancient Greek thought through neoplatonism to its influence on early twentieth-century idealism. Recommended Reading: Arthur Oncken Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (Harvard, 1970).

[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]


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