“Hanging in a Golden Chain This Pendant World”: Milton and the Great Chain of Being
The philosophy of Milton’s time focuses primarily on the idea of hierarchy. Hierarchy is necessary in thought because all the categories of being indicate how things are ordered and demonstrate degrees in all the dimensions (Kuntz 8). The ideas of Plato and Aristotle had a pervasive influence in Western thought, and both contributed greatly to the ever-evolving history of ideas. Plato’s Idea of the Good is more or less equated to the concept of God. The Good differs in its nature from everything else in that the being who possesses it always and in all respects has the most perfect sufficiency and is never wanting of any other thing. The fullness of the set properties - self-sufficiency, adequacy, and completeness - is what distinguishes the Absolute Being from all others. God eternally possesses the Good in the highest degree. Whenever anything reaches its own perfection, it cannot endure to remain in itself, but generates and produces some other thing (Lovejoy 62). We see this in Milton’s Paradise Lost as God, the summit of the hierarchy of being, creates another universe outside of Heaven. The not-so-good - not to say the bad, but not in any sense at the same level of good as God - must be perceived as derivative from the...
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