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In May 1969 the Principal of Edinburgh University wrote to J. R. Lucas in these terms:

Dear Mr Lucas,

You will, I am sure, know what our Gifford Lectures are. In the past we have nearly always invited one lecturer to give a double series, that is to say, 10 lectures one year and 10 lectures the next year, and these are normally printed as a book.

The Gifford Committee, however, is disposed for the period 1971/72 and 1972/73 to try something different. Our idea, which is by no means fully formulated, is to persuade, if we can, four people to combine, giving perhaps five lectures each, with, we would hope, some joint seminars or disputations, the whole thing to be a developing concept. The general theme would be in the very broadest sense the development of mind, and we hope to start with a physical scientist, to move on with an animal behaviourist, or a psychologist, then some sort of philosopher, and finally a theologian.

We now have in the University as a Royal Society Professor someone who is, I believe, a friend of yours, namely Christopher Longuet-Higgins, who is much concerned nowadays with the physical basis of mind, and he has agreed to take part. We have just had a further meeting of the Committee with him, as a result of which we felt unanimously that we should like to ask you to be the theological participant. Although we had a number of ideas of biologists, psychologists, and philosophers of one sort or another, we didn't feel quite sure who would fit in best, and in the end we agreed that I should approach you to see whether you were in any way interested, and, if you were, further to invite you to get together with Christopher Longuet-Higgins and decide what other people you might like to rope in.…

Yours sincerely,

Michael Swann

The invitation was accepted, and before long the team was completed by the recruitment of A. J. P. Kenny, representing philosophy, and C. H. Waddington representing biology. The individual participants gave notice that they might step outside their allotted roles, as indeed they did when the time came. It was agreed to entitle the two-year series The Phenomenon of Mind; the title of the 1971/72 lectures would be The Nature of Mind and of the 1972/73 lectures The Development of Mind. This book is a record of the first of the two series; we plan to publish the second year's lectures in another volume.

For such a series there was little or no precedent, and we had to steer a careful course between formality and disorder. In the end it was decided that the standard form should be a prepared talk by one of the speakers, and a discussion opened by another who had studied the talk in advance. The remaining participants would then join in, but would not have seen the detailed text of the prepared talk, so that their reactions would be as spontaneous as those of the audience. This form was adopted for all except the first and last lectures of the series, and accounts for the change of literary style which will be apparent to the reader when he passes from the earlier to the later part of each chapter. (Each session was tape-recorded in its entirety, and editing has been kept to a minimum so as to preserve the informal atmosphere of the discussions, as when, for example, we addressed one another as ‘Tony’, ‘Christopher’, ‘John’ and ‘Wad’ respectively.)

In the first lecture each participant spoke for about 15 minutes, explaining the standpoint from which he approached the problems of mind, but there was no further discussion. The final lecture was also divided into four equal sections; each participant raised a particular topic for discussion, and the others added their comments and criticisms.

The Principal took the chair at a number of the lectures; others were chaired by Professor T. Torrance, Professor R. Hepburn, Professor J. McIntyre and Professor W. H. Walsh. We would like to thank them all for their tact and dexterity in dealing with such a motley crew.

A. J. P. Kenny
H. C. Longuet-Higgins
J. R. Lucas
C. H. Waddington.

From the book: