cosmology

(Greek: kosmos, world; logos, knowledge or science)

The study of the general characteristics and basic principles of the material world. Its material object, the material universe, is one with the physical sciences; its formal object differs. The particular sciences are eonfined to their particular subject, to the proximate causes of corporeal phenomena, and to the formulation of the governing laws as revealed by observation and experiment. Cosmology complements the physical sciences. It begins at their terminus. Based on their findings it passes beyond sense perception to the ultimate causes of material bodies in general as ascertained by natural reason. Man's unique sphere entitles him to a special study, i.e., psychology, to which corporeal life as such is more aptly reserved. In the guise of physics the study is as old as philosophy itself, and originally constituted its entire scope. Scientific progress with its numerous findings has separated the two, and cosmology now ranks as an independent metaphysical science. The name was first used, 1730. Its method is essentially a posteriori. It answers to the "Whence, What, Why?" of the corporeal world. Hence its threefold task and divisions. The subject of the universe in general comprises two divisions:
  1. The first treats of its primordial efficient cause reduced to the two theories of monism and creationism, its evolution or development, its magnitude, and its final destiny
  2. the second treats of its final cause, revealing purposive finality
  3. The third division treats of its constituent causes:
    1. of the common properties of bodies: extension, space, time, and activity with its efficiency, physical laws, and necessity; miracles; and
    2. of the essential composition of bodies reduced to the theories of mechanism, atomism, dynamism, and hylomorphism.
The philosophy of the schoolmen holds:
  1. That the universe was created by God out of nothing; that the present state of the inorganic world is due immediately to the agency of material forces.
  2. That its final cause is to manifest its Creator's glory through the medinm of man, whose welfare is the secondary purpose.
  3. That the constituent principle of physical bodies is a substantial union of two co-principles or incomplete substances, matter and form.
Primary matter is the indeterminate, passive principle. Substantial form is the active, determining principle imparting specific determination. It is the root cause of activity. The union of the two constitutes the complete specific substance, the adequate principle of activity. Such is hylomorphism.

New Catholic Dictionary

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