How valid is it to use concepts like "fundamentals", "origins" etc. how are they to be judged?

Particularly, consider e.g.

Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

Now, to claim "the origin" suggests that it's a foundational basis (for species studies or something), right?

However, I'm unsure as to whether Darwin for example was able to demonstrate that it's in fact the origin and logically speaking "the only origin there is".

Could it then be considered "professional" that one'd avoid using terms that make/imply claims that cannot be supported?

Darwin could have called the Origin of Species "A Study on Species"?

It's possible that "big words" are used to claim unwarranted weight.

More particularly,

Consider the social and time-relative aspect of truth. Then to say something is fundamental requires that it's such regardless of the people and the time (and place). But is such ever possible?

  • 2
    According to the dictionary, origin comes from Latin oriri, arise, be born, be descended, receive life, so Darwin's book was aptly named. I am not sure what "foundational basis" means, or why "origin" would suggest it specifically, as opposed to any generic kind of lineage. Fundamental does not mean "regardless of the people and the time (and place)" either, that would be universal or objective. And "is objective possible?" is not an answerable question for SE, that's a perennial question on which volumes and volumes are written.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 22:29
  • Probably relevant (if not directly answering this question in some respect) is my answer here.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 12:27
  • Origin of "species", not "life". Darwin tries to explain the proliferation of different forms of life by claiming every species "originated" by the evolution of another species. The genesis of Life, or the original species is another matter.
    – christo183
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 16:37
  • @christo183: Exactly. A matter on which Darwin's views have been explored here as well. I think it is the question that really claims an unwarranted weight of words. The origin - or becoming - of (today's) species can very well be explained by mechanisms that show how they developed from other species without having to go back to the origin of life itself and only in contemporary terms and understanding. Otherwise, there was no truth or origin at all.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


I feel Darwin was justified in the use of his title but he was not a metaphysician. 'Origin' for him was not a fundamental term. The origin of species is not the origin of everything but his concern was biology.

Metaphysics uniquely deals with what is true and false at all times and places and here it is not only possible but necessary to discuss fundamental truths. The problem is only that these truths are arrived at by logical analysis and, as Aristotle notes, logic cannot prove truth since the world may not obey the rules. So metaphysics produces inarguable logical truths but the interpretation of our results is another matter.

It is a well-known result of logic, for instance, that all selective conclusions about the world-as-a-whole are logically absurd, but it remains a personal choice as to whether we believe they are false. The only certain method for establishing fundamental truths is to throw away the maps and go look at the facts but although many claim to have done so there is in logic no way to prove this is possible.

You suggest 'It's possible that "big words" are used to claim unwarranted weight.' It's a common approach for an academic book title and examples are plentiful. It can make all the difference to sales. Many academic titles are astonishing for their unfulfilled claims and many would not meet the requirements of the Trade Description Act. But the needs of marketing are understood and considerable leeway is granted.

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