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Microcosm and Macrocosm

Origins, Plato, The Body Politic, Hellenism And Late Antiquity, Jewish And Muslim Theories In The Middle Ages

Microcosm and macrocosm are two aspects of a theory developed by ancient Greek philosophers to describe human beings and their place in the universe. These early thinkers viewed the individual human being as a little world (mikros kosmos) whose composition and structure correspond to that of the universe, or great world (makros kosmos, or megas kosmos). Kosmos at this time meant "order" in a general sense and implied a harmonious, and therefore beautiful, arrangement of parts in any organic system; hence it also referred to order in human societies, reflected in good government. Comparisons between society and the human being, as well as society and the universe, were varieties of microcosmic theory. These analogies enjoyed a long life, first in the Mediterranean region during antiquity and later throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. The ideas were commonplace during the Renaissance and early modern times but lost their plausibility when a mechanistic model of the universe became dominant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Methane to Molecular clock