Talk:Great chain of being

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Demonic yews?[edit]

The article currently includes this sentence:

Trees are at the top, with useful trees such as oaks at the top, and the traditionally demonic yew tree at the bottom

However, the article on Taxus baccata (the Common Yew) discusses a variety of religious connotations, including death, rebirth, and longevity, but nothing that could remotely be described as "demonic". The section only really has one reference, to a book which I don't own, so this anomaly makes me wonder how accurate the rest of its extensive hierarchy is. Perhaps someone could find some additional references, or trim this back to more verifiable information? - IMSoP (talk) 19:02, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

There's nothing unverifiable about Lovejoy's book, readily available through libraries, though exact page refs would be desirable. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:24, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Let me put my concern a different way, then: that section (and the following section) seems anomalously specific, like listing the height of the Minotaur to the nearest centimetre.
How universally accepted were the sub-divisions elaborated in those two sections? Was Lovejoy restating a frequently referenced list, or a particular highly-regarded source? During the many centuries of the idea's history, how would much would this list have changed?
Going back to the Yew tree specifically, the phrase "traditionally demonic" is making an additional assertion, which contradicts (or at least is conspicuously missing from) another article. It stood out to me because yew trees are common in Christian graveyards, which would be rather strange if they were widely considered demonic. - IMSoP (talk) 17:41, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
There are two possible answers to this. One is to engage in general dialogue (yews were probably pre-Christian plantings, etc); the other is to go through Lovejoy page by page, sorting out all the citations exactly. I know which looks quicker and more tempting, and which is more likely to resolve the matter. What I can say at once, before stepping through the book, is that he was a careful researcher, and chose every phrase carefully based on evidence. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:43, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
The aim is not to convince me here, but to improve the article:
  • The "sub-divisions" section could probably be merged into the next section, as they are basically giving the same information in a different format. I'm unsure if we should be expanding the bulleted lists further, or trimming them back to a few examples, because I'm unclear if the detail is all just from a single source.
  • The section could start with an explanation of whether the examples are taken from a particular historical source, synthesised as representative of a particular period, etc.
  • If the yew was "traditionally demonic", that should be mentioned, with references, on the Taxus baccata page, which has an extensive "religion" section. If there is no reference good enough to add it there, it shouldn't be included as a passing comment here.
- IMSoP (talk) 10:40, 14 November 2019 (UTC)
Sigh. Not trying to, but awaiting copy of Lovejoy, which will either substantiate or refute many claims currently in the article, and go far to resolving questions of structure which can't be answered just by looking at the current text. As for relying on other articles, recall that "Wikipedia is not a Reliable Source." Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:45, 14 November 2019 (UTC)
Sounds great. Thanks for your effort, and apologies if I came across as negative.
As for other articles, I wasn't saying we should use them as a source for each other, just that information should be consistent between them. It's not like the yew article is a stub with no information on mythology, so if they were commonly seen as demonic, it's a significant omission. - IMSoP (talk) 13:00, 14 November 2019 (UTC)

The lists aren't from Lovejoy at all. Much of the article is lifted nearly word-for-word from the Tillyard website, or from Baofu's book. I've marked up what came from where. I've chopped the lists; there are many alternative versions and we mustn't endorse any particular set of details. We now urgently need to rewrite all those sections. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:02, 16 November 2019 (UTC)

Well the article is now quite a bit shorter, but properly cited and free of excessive quotation (cited or not). Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:55, 16 November 2019 (UTC)

This set of descriptors of a great chain of being is relentlessly European. Surely, there are Asian or Middle Eastern traditions that echo this idea? Daniel Lewis, Ph.D. 23:16, 13 October 2020 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Hilokid (talkcontribs)

Deleted sentence[edit]

I don't really know enough about this topic, but the sentence removed by an IP without any rationale in this edit sounds valid and might be reinstated. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 19:42, 29 June 2020 (UTC)