By nature, the universe is an order of “strong connexions, nice dependencies, / Gradations just” (30-1).This order is, more specifically, a hierarchy of the “Vast chain of being” in which all of God’s creations have a place (237).Section VII (207-32): Section VII shows that throughout the visible world, a universal order and gradation can be observed.
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Pope’s Essay on Man, a masterpiece of concise summary in itself, can fairly be summed up as an optimistic enquiry into mankind’s place in the vast Chain of Being.
John, Lord Bolingbroke, a friend of the poet from whose fragmentary philosophical writings Pope likely drew inspiration for .
Pope urges his friend to “leave all meaner things” and rather embark with Pope on his quest to “vindicate the ways of God to man (1, 16).
Everything happens for the best, and man should not presume to question God’s greater design, which he necessarily cannot understand because he is a part of it.
He further does not possess the intellectual capability to comprehend God’s order outside of his own experience.
Section I (17-34): Section I argues that man can only understand the universe with regard to human systems and constructions because he is ignorant of the greater relationships between God’s creations.
Section II (35-76): Section II states that man is imperfect but perfectly suited to his place within the hierarchy of creation according to the general order of things.
Section III (77-112): Section III demonstrates that man's happiness depends on both his ignorance of future events and on his hope for the future.
Section IV (113-30): Section IV claims that man’s sin of pride—the attempt to gain more knowledge and pretend to greater perfection—is the root of man’s error and misery.