This idea of the ‘Great Chain of Being’ was a popular medieval and Renaissance one, very familiar in their day to both Chaucer and Shakespeare.
This was a metaphysical doctrine −based on a priori assumptions about God− that explained the existence, plenitude and unity of creation by using deductive argumentations concluding that the world was the best that God could have created and where nothing apart from God could be perfect.
And this just from the beginning: In the third epistle the brevity and insignificance of human life is compared to the transience and fragility of a bubble: Under this insistence in Man’s purely momentary existence lays Christian thought with its ideas of humility, resignation and hope for the winning of the eternal life. These principles are self-love (the urging principle) and reason (the restraining principle), both in tension to produce finally overall harmony.
The platonic idea of Man as an auriga conducted by two horses (passion and reason) is at the bottom of this.
But is also a forceful and concise introduction to ideas widely prevalent in early 18th-century England.
To point out some of those ideas is the main aim of this paper.
were originally planned as parts of a whole, the philosophical “Opus Magnum” that was to have treated almost every conceivable aspect of human life from man’s relation to the universe, to learning and wit, civil and religious society, private Ethics and practical morality.
About “What is now published, is only to be considered as a general map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connections, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow.