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Eschatology is the study or philosophy of formation of ideas about the end of things, apparently derived from the Greek ἔσχατος meaning "last" and -λογία meaning "study of".

What is the word for "the formation of ideas about the beginning of things?

Edit: I've accepted "cosmology" as the answer, but I also really liked "protology". Thanks for your thoughts, everyone!

  • Hm... that might be the right word. I had always associated cosmology with "the beginning of outer space" but I suppose it also refers to "the beginning of things". – August Zellmer Apr 2 at 2:50
  • "The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be." – Carl Sagan – Mazura Apr 3 at 1:11
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    The most common Greek-based word that etymologically means ‘the study of origin(-related things)’ is archaeology, but that of course has a rather more common meaning that renders it unsuitable. There is the rather obscure archology, which does mean ‘the study of the origin of things’, but I suspect most people won’t know it and will just read it as a typo for archaeology anyway. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 at 8:04
  • Vote NOT to close because of usefulness of the answers. – TrevorD Apr 6 at 16:13
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Eschatology has to do more with the "end of humankind" specifically than the "end of things". So, if Eschatology is concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, then Anthropogeny is concerned with study of human origins.

Anthropogeny comes from Greek anthropo- (human) + Greek -geny (birth, origin).

But, if you want to take it in more general sense i.e. "final events of history", as history1 can be of humans, earth, or cosmos, then it is Cosmogony.

The word comes from the Koine Greek κοσμογονία (from κόσμος "cosmos, the world") and the root of γί(γ)νομαι / γέγονα ("come into a new state of being"). In astronomy, cosmogony refers to the study of the origin of particular astrophysical objects or systems, and is most commonly used in reference to the origin of the Universe, the Solar System, or the Earth–Moon system.

And on the theological side, you can consider Theogony: "the genealogy or birth of the gods."


1. 2nd definition of history according to Oxford Dictionary: The whole series of past events connected with a particular person or thing.

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    ἄνθρωπος does not mean study of man but man. genies and gonies are not studies. the study-of bit comes from λόγος. – Toothrot Apr 2 at 19:04
  • @Toothrot so then would it be anthropogenology? – HotelCalifornia Apr 3 at 3:35
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    @HotelCalifornia is "anthropogenology" established field of study? or do it even exist? – Ubi hatt Apr 3 at 13:12
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    @Toothrot Can you provide proper link to where I can define definition for anthropogenealogy? or some sort of citation? – Ubi hatt Apr 3 at 13:13
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    @Toothrot In general, yes, ‘study of X’ is represented by -(o)logy. But that doesn’t change the fact that anthropogeny is the study of the origin of humankind. It does not mean the origin of humankind (though anthropogenesis is), but the study of it. The word was not coined with strict adherence to the individual meanings of its constituents, but it was coined, and it now means what it means, not what its individual parts mean historically. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 at 13:31
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Where eschatos means last, protos means first, so the word is protology.

Protology

noun

The study or science of origins.

  • 1
    Current usage of the word eschatology is related to religions, so a science is probably not the desired answer here. The question asked was primary to oppose ending with beginning, but likely keeping it in the registry of theist concepts. – Cœur Apr 3 at 4:52
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    @Cœur 'Protology' can definitely be used in a religious context as a literal opposite of 'eschatology'. E.g. this book logos.com/product/24556/… – Richard Apr 3 at 7:52
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    Not to be confused with proctology, which – ironically – is also the study of ends in a sense. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 at 7:57
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    @JanusBahsJacquet ...which is not far from scatology, the study of the effects of those ends. – Mitch Apr 3 at 13:21
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The word "eschatology" is most often used in the theological sense. Similarly, the word "genesis" is frequently used in the theological sense.

However, "eschatology" (in a general sense) of the word is the "study of last (or end) things". The corresponding opposite general term for the beginning (or origin) of anything would be "genesis". Therefore, the opposite of eschatology (in a general sense) would be "genesis studies" or "the study of geneses". This general definition being "the study of beginnings (geneses or origins)".

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    You didn't take the leading step to 'geneology', which of course has quite a different meaning than expected from that step. – Mitch Apr 3 at 13:20
2

There are already some good answers, but none mentions the first word which comes to my mind: aetiology (alternative spelling etiology is preferred by some people).

This is the study of the origins of things in terms of causation (etymologically, the study of causes). The noun can also be used in the sense of "origin story"; this meaning is common in medicine, and fairly common in theology.

See: Wikipedia:Etiology.

American Heritage Dictionary:

n. pl. e·ti·ol·o·gies also ae·ti·ol·o·gies

  1. a. The study of causes or origins.
    b. The branch of medicine that deals with the causes or origins of disease.
  2. a. Assignment of a cause, an origin, or a reason for something.
    b. The cause or origin of a disease or disorder as determined by medical diagnosis.
1

Just to be clear on the meaning of ‘eschatology’, here it is in the ‘Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy’:

(Greek, eschatos, the last) The formation of ideas about the end of life, or the end of the world, and in Christian theology, the last judgement and resurrection.

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