- Hardcover: 382 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (1936)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674361504
- ISBN-13: 978-0674361508
- Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,783,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea Hardcover – 1936
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The Great Chain of Being, employed as a title, would have suggested…what was 'probably the most widely familiar conception of the general scheme of things'―the idea of a world in which every being was related to every other in a continuously graded scale, with no possible form of diversity missing. Pursuing the biography of this idea through more than two thousand years, the distinguished author of these lectures makes clear its amazing influence on the thought and history of the Western World… Intellectual vigor, critical precision and an amazing knowledge of what mankind has thought and desired in other ages distinguishes this book. No student of the history of literature, science, or philosophy may well neglect it. (Clifford Barrett New York Times Book Review)
One of the great books of our generation. (Marjorie Nicolson American Scholar)
A fascinating and moving book… Everyone interested in the larger ironies of human history should read [it]. (Ernest Nagel New Republic)
Men are galvanized by ideas and act as vehicles for them… Such a ruling idea is that of the great chain of being. Prof. Lovejoy's study records the birth, the growth, the vicissitudes, transformations, and finally the senility, and perhaps the death of this idea. The study is as fascinating as that of the rise and decay of an empire, and, in fact, it is the study of the empire of an idea over human minds throughout many centuries… Prof. Lovejoy's approach is fresh and different… The learning exhibited in this book is vast. (Raphael Demos Modern Language Notes) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
'Men are galvanized by ideas and act as vehicles for them ...Such a ruling idea is that of the great chain of being. Prof. Lovejoy's study records the birth, the growth, the vicissitudes, transformations, and finally the senility, and perhaps the death of this idea. The study is as fascinating as that of the rise and decay of an empire, and, in fact, it is the study of the empire of an idea over human minds throughout many centuries...Prof. Lovejoy's approach is fresh and different.' Modern Language Notes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
At the time this philosophy was adopted by the Christians, right to life did not exist in Roman - European society. Slaves, babies, old and infirm people, could be killed with no consequence. This philosophy of 'the best of all worlds that results in right to life' can be seen as a commentary or critique of the materialist world-view predominant in the Roman Empire. Right to life would form one of the cornerstones of the Christian worldview, which,if nothing else, can be seen as a response to the excesses of the Roman Empire.
So, I think it is important that we understand that either everything has a right to life, or everything does not have a right to life, it's not just a debate about unborn babies. All people, old people, deformed people, useless people, have a right to life, as an expression of the goodness of God. The test for the right to life is that the will of God brought each of us into this world, therefore all of us have a right to be here without any further defense. We do not have to pass the materialists test of 'utility,' to prove our value.
Basically, as we combine "right to life," with other conceptual ideas, we can no longer rely upon empirical materialism to understand the world. A conceptual reality (such as Idealism) is a consequence of such logic. Idealism or conceptualism is a worldview based on a story rather than on the here and now of empirical observations.
The ideas presented in The Great Chain of Being were adopted by early Christians to provide a philosophical defense for the theology of Jesus.
The book is a must read. The logic, philosophy, point of view, is not obsolete. Dr. Lovejoy is making some subtle points in this book. This book can be read in the context of a post World War I reassessment of Modernism.
If you enjoy this type of investigation, there are a number of great books you should put on your reading list:
"The Life of the Mind I & II," by Hannah Arendt.
"Natural Symbols," and "Purity and Danger" by Mary Douglas.
The Greeks and the Irrational, E.R. Dodds
Literary Modernism, The Struggle for Modern History, by Dr. Jeffery Perl
Shame and Necessity by Bernard Williams
A general study of the difference between a shame based society, such as Classical Greece, (Homer's Iliad and Odyssey) must be understood within the context of a shame based society, and then the birth of a sin based society with Zoroaster.