The first series of lectures, ‘On Selfhood’, is concerned with an attempt to bring coherence to the work of natural theology by first justifying rational belief in the existence of the soul, this being, according to Campbell, the assumption sine qua non of the discipline. The first two chapters contain introductory material regarding the relationship between religion and reason. Campbell accepts reason’s role as an adjudicator of the validity of ‘religious truth’ and focuses on defining rational criteria by which revelation may be evaluated.
The third lecture, ‘The Essence of Cognition’, examines selfhood in terms of various theories of cognition, examining ideas of self-consciousness and objective reality before turning to an extended discussion of the judgment-theory of cognition and its implications, which are treated at length in the fourth lecture, ‘Implications of the Judgment-Theory of Cognition’. Campbell notes that assuming the judgment-theory to be true dispenses with the problem of the external world, both as concerned with ideas and with sense data; the problem of error, especially the problem of unreal objects; and renders the verifiability theory of meaning irrelevant. He then turns to the philosophical implications of the judgment-theory, noting especially that cognition, insofar as it constitutes judgment, requires an active subject.
The fifth lecture, ‘Self-Consciousness, Self-Identity and Personal Identity’, considers the subject of cognition, arguing that the act of cognition requires a degree of self-awareness on the part of the subject. Campbell critiques the relational view of the self, asserting that the problematic nature of the theory requires a sympathetic reading of the substantive description of selfhood, in spite of the marked difficulties of that theory. Campbell differentiates, however, between self-identity and personal identity, pointing out common use of phrases such as ‘I was not myself when I did that.’ The relation of self to person is discussed, and the sixth lecture, ‘The Self’s Relation to Its Body’, discusses embodied self-consciousness and various aspects of the mind-body problem.
The seventh lecture, ‘Empirical Self-Knowledge: Introspection, and the Inference to Disposition’, explores the relation between self-subject and self-object implied in the act of introspection. The eighth lecture, ‘Self-Activity and its Modes’, is the one lecture substantially altered from its original form, and has been greatly expanded. In brief, the first part investigates and dispenses with the assertion that the idea of activity is fictitious, and the second investigates various modes of self-activity, such as creative activity and moral decision.
Continuing on the theme of moral decision, the ninth lecture, ‘Has the Self “Free Will”?’, argues that the free will presupposed by any concept of moral responsibility must be treated as a reality and that, in fact, the perception of free will inherent in any sort of moral decision is so intrinsic to the self that any doubts as to the reality of free will are, practically speaking, incoherent. Finally, the tenth lecture, ‘Moral Experience and its Implications for Human Selfhood’, examines various theories of moral experience: the Emotive-Expressive, Intention-Expressive, Emotive-Assertive, Command-Assertive and Productive-Assertive theories are all discussed and found wanting. Campbell argues for a return to the non-naturalistic position that the moral ‘ought’ is objective and un-analyzable. The lecture concludes with a review of all the material covered in the series, demonstrating that the fundamental characteristics of the self which have been laid out over the last eight lectures are reasonably consistent with theological language about the soul.
The second series of lectures, ‘On Godhood’, builds on the foundations laid by the first, turning from the soul/self to the larger issue of the truth of religion. The eleventh lecture, ‘The Concept of Religion’, begins to approach a definition of religion, noting that both mental/emotive elements and an object of belief are necessary components. A definition is finally proposed at the beginning of the twelfth lecture, ‘Religion and Theism’. As Campbell’s definition of ‘religion’ rests heavily on the object of worship, he argues first for the interchangeability of the questions ‘Is religion true?’ and ‘Is theism true?’, and then proceeds to present arguments in favour of theism over the course of the next five lectures.
The thirteenth and fourteenth lectures, both entitled ‘Theism and the Problem of Evil’, discuss the challenges brought to Theism by the objectively verifiable existences of sin and suffering, respectively. In the thirteenth lecture, Campbell argues that sin is no challenge to theism, citing the doctrine of free will and the incoherence of arguments concerning natural depravity. In the fourteenth lecture, however, Campbell finds that suffering cannot be explained away as a challenge to Theism within a rationalist framework. Therefore, the fifteenth lecture is titled “Is Rational Theism Self-Contradictory?’ and examines the ideas of divine will and selfhood. Campbell concludes that the notion of divine will is, in fact, self-contradictory, and therefore rational Theism and literal theology are unacceptable.
The sixteenth lecture, ‘Otto and the Numinous’, shifts consideration to the idea of a supra-rational theism. The seventeenth lecture, ‘Supra-Rational Theism and “Symbolic” Knowledge’, argues that ‘symbols’ of the divine retain objective validity within the context of supra-rational Theism, and that therefore supra-rational Theism may be accepted as an authentic expression of religion, regardless of its actual truth value.
The final three lectures, all entitled ‘The Objective Validity of Religion’, address the question of the truth value of supra-rational Theism. In the eighteenth lecture, Campbell considers the parallel between moral consciousness, which he accepted as objectively and universally valid in the tenth lecture, and religious consciousness, though he concludes that the evidence for the universality of religious consciousness is difficult to assess within the framework of his argument. However, Campbell still finds the universality of moral consciousness important to the objective validity of Theism, arguing that the objectivity of moral order, while not a direct proof of a supernatural lawgiver, aids a metaphysical argument towards the objective validity of religion. The nineteenth lecture is given over to an expansion of this metaphysical argument, and the twentieth lecture examines the classically understood attributes of God within the metaphysical framework laid out therein. Campbell concludes that all classical theistic positions may be regarded as objectively valid save for the idea of a ‘Living Presence’ which manifests within human lives, which he maintains can be neither proven nor disproven within the philosophical framework of the lectures.