Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

Get access

Scala naturae
(949 words)

1. Metaphysical roots

According to a well-known theory of Arthur O. Lovejoy, the idea of a scala naturae, a great chain of being, literally a “ladder of nature,” according to which all beings constitute a hierarchical sequence based on their degree of perfection, dominated natural philosophy and natural history until well into the 18th century. According to Lovejoy, this idea was rooted in three metaphysical principles: the principle of fullness, which holds t…

Cite this page
Müller-Wille, Staffan, “Scala naturae”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 25 March 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_COM_026980>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20210601

▲   Back to top   ▲