Much of the confusion in the current literature on regimes is due to the fact that two very different metaphors about nature, science, and culture inform the discussion. The two metaphors—the organic and the mechanical—imply six different approaches to world order studies, and hence to the analysis and advocacy of regimes. Each of the six—eco-environmentalism, eco-reformism, egalitarianism, liberalism, mercantilism, and mainstream views—advances different arguments about the origin of regimes, the structural principles that explain their growth and decay, their functioning, and the values they serve. Yet each approach uses the same basic vocabulary: system, structure, process, costs-and-benefits, public goods, management, learning, organization, hegemony, and collaboration. Clarity about each argument, and a possible synthesis of views, can be achieved only if we understand the semantic and philosophical contexts in which the terminology is embedded. This article attempts the task of terminological and contextual explication in the setting of evolutionary epistemology and of contending theories of international relations. It opts for a synthesis of the analyses of regimes offered by mainstream views and by a normative view of world order represented by the eco-reformist approach. The discussion is illustrated with references to the Law of the Sea negotiations.