KOSMOS is ‘universe’. Hence, this ancient Greek term indicates our “world”, in the largest sense of “our entire reality”. <Kosmos> is the opposite of <chaos> (the void state preceding the creation of the universe). Therefore – in a philosophical discourse – it also designates the all-encompassing order, the <logos>, that is the general, all-comprehensive law of reality. Thus, the word <kosmos> implies the idea of the universe as a complex and orderly system or entity.

Sokratiko Logo

The Ionian Greek philosopher Pythagoras is the first to use the word κόσμος for the order of the universe. In that time (c. 570 – c. 495 BC), the verb <kosmein> means generally ‘to dispose’, ‘to prepare’. But it expresses, in particular, “to order and arrange (troops for battle) and to set (an army) in array”. Also, it means “to establish (a government or regime)”. Moreover, it is the equivalent of “to deck, adorn, equip, dress” (especially of women). So <kosmos> has a secondary sense of “ornaments of a woman’s dress, decoration”. It is from this meaning that we have now words as ‘cosmetics’.

A long time goes by until the term becomes part of modern language in the 19th century. It is geographer–polymath Alexander von Humboldt to make new use of the word from the ancient Greek. In fact, he chooses it for his five-volume treatise, Kosmos. The work influences the holistic perception of the universe as one interacting entity. <Kosmos> is ‘universe’ and its English version ‘cosmos’ comes only in 1848.

Cosmology is the examination of the cosmos. In its widest sense, it includes several different approaches: scientific, religious and philosophical. All cosmologies share the task of understanding the implicit order within the whole of being. In this way, most religions and philosophical systems have a cosmology.