Lecture Books


Action examines action as the core element in ethics in its relation to religious belief. The investigation prepares the way for addressing which (Christian) religious beliefs can reasonably be accepted in light of a broadly historical philosophical investigation. This latter course makes up the content of the second series of lectures, A Layman’s Quest.

Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology

The long and rich tradition of the Gifford Lectures challenges the feasibility and credibility of modern dialogues between theology and the sciences. J. Wentzel van Huyssteen rejects the idea that religious faith and scientific thought inhabit opposing domains of rationality. He argues that these seemingly incompatible reasoning strategies actually share in the resources of human rationality and should, therefore, be able to be linked in interdisciplinary dialogue.

Animal Nature and Human Nature

Thorpe’s thesis in his Gifford Lectures is that what distinguishes humanity from the animals is the capacity for religion. He argues this point by developing a strongly non-mechanistic account of animal behaviour in the first part (chapters 1–5), and then comparing human behaviour to discover what is unique in the second part (chapters 6–10).

Anthropological Religion

Throughout his lectures, Müller has tried to prove that a belief in God, in the immortality of the soul and in a future retribution can be gained by the right exercise of human reason unassisted by miracles or special revelation. Having apparently become the object of much criticism in the wake of his first two courses of Gifford Lectures, in the preface to Anthropological Religion, his third course of lectures, Müller ardently defends all that he has previously taught to the public, refusing to retract a single word.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilization is a wide-ranging collection of lectures which share a very broad premise, put perhaps more clearly by one reviewer than by the title actually given to the series: those ‘who would understand Greek literature and civilisation must again and again seek clues in Anatolia’. Ramsay most clearly lays out this purpose in the first chapter and then draws it back together in chapter 21. The work should be approached as a rich collection of a life’s work and travel.

The Attributes of God

With these words from The Attributes of God, ‘Omnipotence and omnipresence are characteristics of divinity that can only be grasped and imagined by the most advanced societies’, Lewis Farnell characterizes himself as interested in mediaeval theology (with its concern with typology), as a positivist, and as someone guided by the spirit of comparative religion.

Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics

Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics explores the complex issues of autonomy and trust in the modern life as they apply to medicine, science, biotechnologies and the impact that these fields have on a variety of people, both those working in those fields and those who work with them.


The book retains its lecture format despite being extensively revised after its delivery in Aberdeen. It contains both sets of lectures (series 1 and 2), each composed of ten lectures. Lecture 1 raises issues relating to the performatory aspect of first-person belief sentences, highlights the primacy of believing a proposition over believing persons and considers some important issues surrounding degrees of belief. Price analyses complete conviction as the highest degree of belief, nothing short of which he considers worthy of the title.

The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead

This first volume of Professor Frazer’s book, The Belief in Immortality, consists of twenty lectures delivered between 1911 and 1912 as part of the Gifford’s Lectures at the University of St. Andrews. Frazer focuses on the belief in immortality in primitive societies, as he believes only then can we understand our own beliefs in life after death.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

In this book, which preceded and inspired the 2013 Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh, Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, identifies six trends that define, or in any case frame, the decline of violence over time.

Beyond Ideology: Religion and the Future of Western Civilization

In a way, what Professor Ninian Smart presents in his Gifford Lecture series, Beyond Ideology, and reflects on are the many varieties of religious and symbolic identity. He labels the ideology herein as ‘transcendental pluralism’: transcendental because the sorrows and happinesses of humans, the quest for identity in the individual and in the group, are illuminated by what lies Beyond, whether looked at from the angle of the Christian tradition or from the Eastern and Buddhist traditions.

The Bible and Criticism in Victorian Britain

John Rogerson’s The Bible and Criticism in Victorian Britain has a curious focus: ‘scholars who were dismissed from their posts … in those heady days before the churches decided to deal with the prophetic voices in their midst by simply ignoring them’. The author chooses two, F. D. Maurice, obliged to resign from his post at King’s College in 1853; and, drawn from a series of Gifford Lectures Rogerson gave in 1994, William Smith, expulsed from the Free Church College in 1881.

Biblical Faith and Natural Theology

In Biblical Faith and Natural Theology, Barr sets forth a self-consciously biblical case for the legitimacy and reality of natural theology, that is, a knowledge or understanding of truths about God available to all humans via the natural order (in contrast to knowledge via “special” revelation, such as inspired religious texts). In so doing, he attacks head-on the view of Barth and those modern theologians largely influenced by him, who maintain that there is no place for natural theology in a truly Christian revelational theology.

The Big Picture, On the Origin of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself

In a somewhat unusual break with tradition, this series of Gifford Lectures from physicist Sean Carroll takes the form of a popular science book. Given the Gifford tradition of eminent scientists, there have been few who have given the lectures from such an explicit view of popularising science. (Carroll had written the book just before receiving the invite from the Gifford Committee, somewhat explaining his choice of topic).

Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality

In 2010, Patricia Churchland gave a single Gifford Lecture, “Morality and the Mammalian Brain”. This lecture provided an introductory framework, grounded in neuroendocrinology, for her book Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, released the following year. Evidence of her intent to provide a fully-orbed, naturalistic account of morality can be seen in Churchland’s bibliography which spans twenty-four pages; each chapter of the book heavily engages  research in a variety of disciplines.

Causality and Complementarity

These lectures were never published. That said, a manuscript entitled "Summary of Gifford Lectures" is reproduced in Niels Bohr Collected Works, vol. 10: Complementarity beyond Physics (1928-1962), ed. David Favrholdt (1999), pp. 171-181. See also vol. 4: Causality and Complementarity – Supplementary Papers.

The Central Questions of Philosophy

A. J. Ayer’s small, compact and yet highly accessible work on philosophy first appeared as a series of Gifford Lectures, delivered at the University of St Andrews in 1972–3, and is perhaps most immediately comparable to Bertrand Russell’s earlier work, The Problem of Philosophy.

Characters in Search of Their Author

Part I, ‘Whatever Happened to Natural Theology?’, consists of five lectures chronicling the shift within philosophical discourse from a theistic to an atheistic perspective. In the first lecture, ‘Personal Prejudice and Natural Theology’, Professor McInerny confesses that his philosophical view is grounded by his Christian belief.