The idea of applying mereological concepts to the study of cosmology is at once very old and very new, but it is dogged by a peculiar ambiguity. In speaking of mereology (or its more refined cousin, mereotopology) within the context of cosmology, is the approach specifically philosophical in character, or is it more physical/scientific? There are often overlaps between the two approaches, but in general they will employ differing methodological stances toward the mereological tools being employed. Yet the distinction is not one that is always respected. Very broadly, philosophical cosmology can be viewed as a general theory of explanation, whereas scientific cosmology can be viewed as a specific theory of nature, in both cases in the broadest terms possible. Where they differ, then, is over the question of whether nature is all there is in the cosmos. The original sense of the word ‘cosmos’ was of a system of order, so the question then becomes whether all order is strictly within nature, or possibly involves logical aspects that go beyond naturalism, depending on how widely or narrowly such ‘naturalism’ is conceived.
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