Lectures

The Idea of Immortality

  • Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison
1921 to 1923
University of Edinburgh

In this volume, Pringle-Pattison gives a historical review of how the idea of immortality is expressed in different ages, and examines the corresponding foundation for the hope of immortality for each period. He defines ‘eternal life’ as experienced through the participation in the being of Christ; it is a spiritual attitude intended for the here and now.

The Domain of Natural Science

  • Ernest William Hobson
1920 to 1922
University of Aberdeen

Hobson’s series of twenty lectures are concerned with establishing how the relation between the complex of knowledge and ideas denoted by the term Natural Science ought to relate to the other factors of human experience with which religion and philosophy are concerned. Hobson first gives a general account of what is essentially involved in the scientific outlook, surveying its methods as a means to establishing its domain.

God and Nature

  • George Frederick Stout
1919 to 1921
University of Edinburgh

Placing himself between F. C. S. Schiller’s ‘pragmatism’ and Bertrand Russell’s ‘ethical neutrality’, Stout agrees with William James that philosophy must give some credence to religious belief and experience. God and Nature is an attempt to address the fundamental nature of the universe and the place of human beings within it. Drawing upon the first series of lectures, the work addresses the nature of mind and matter and what they reveal about the constitution of the universe. Stout argues for a theistic ontology and teleological universe in which the will of a Universal Mind is unfolding, primarily through its relation to the finite minds embodied in humankind.

Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality

  • Lewis Richard Farnell
1919 to 1920
University of St. Andrews

In an encyclopaedic survey of Greek heroes, Lewis Farnell also addresses the evolution of religion. The first major section of the book is concerned with heroes and heroines, offering a typological classification and establishing if they were ‘divine or daimoniac’, hieratic types of hero-gods, sacral ones associated with a particular divinity or hero-gods with a secular history. Explanations and examples are given for each of his seven categories. The primary focus of the first half of his book, almost a hundred pages, is Herakles.

In the second half, Farnell takes on the daunting task of attempting to ‘track out’ the original sources of the most intriguing cults, some of which lead back to some ‘religious experience common to the Indo-European peoples’. The author includes far-flung surveys of the cults’ sources, reception and spread. He ends with the importance of these heroes and cults. The cultures that worshipped them ‘familiarized the world with the conception of the divine element in the human soul, with the sense of kinship between man and God. By means of mystic sacrament, man’s life was transcendentally fused with God’s. It prepared the way for the inauguration of a new era and a new faith.’

Mind and Matter

  • George Frederick Stout
1919 to 1921
University of Edinburgh

Mind and Matter represents the philosophical perspectives of a man who has devoted his life to the subject. Stout is not bound by any one particular philosophical school in his discourse, but interacts with several in the logical consideration of the relationship between mind and matter, as well as the fundamental questions of existence. He argues that most metaphysical arguments for the relationship between mind and matter and for their very existence are insufficient, and ultimately it is impossible to assert either without enlisting ‘Common Sense’.

A Faith That Enquires

  • Henry Jones
1919 to 1921
University of Edinburgh

In A Faith That Enquires, Sir Henry Jones seeks to demonstrate the importance of a rational and scientific investigation into Religion.  The structure upon which he builds his argument finds its foundation in Lord Gifford’s injunction that Religion should be pursued and studied both logically and scientifically in order to prove whether it is true or false.  Without relying upon special revelation or supernatural intervention, this type of enquiry has the benefit of allowing both adherents and non-adherents to verify whether religious faith is indeed something

Divine Personality and Human Life

  • Clement Charles Julian Webb
1918 to 1919
University of Aberdeen

In God and Personality and Divine Personality, Webb examines ideas of personality and persons and their relation to broadly theistic conceptions of God. Volume 1 begins with a brief historical sketch of philosophical conceptions of personality.

God and Personality

  • Clement Charles Julian Webb
1917 to 1919
University of Aberdeen

In God and Personality and Divine Personality, Webb examines ideas of personality and persons and their relation to broadly theistic conceptions of God. Volume 1 begins with a brief historical sketch of philosophical conceptions of personality. Webb then discusses problems in conceiving of personality as involving rationality in individuals, given that ‘rationality’ is often seen as opposed to the ‘personal’ in the sense that a feature of the ‘personal’ is a certain sort of arbitrariness, and that ‘personal’ considerations are not universally applicable. He then begins leading towards a conception of God as personal insofar as worshippers can enter into personal relations with him, starting with criticisms of attempts to finitize God. Continuing his positive account, he explores related issues such as that of God’s relation to finite entities in terms of creation, the problem of sin and perfection and religious experience as a foundation for theology. The second volume explores the notion of personality in ‘man’ in light of the conclusions drawn in the first volume, and how the ‘divine personality’ figures in spheres of human activity such as the economic, scientific, aesthetic, moral, political and religious lives. He then criticizes Naturalism and Absolute Idealism, bringing in considerations regarding the value of persons and concluding with a consideration of personal immortality.

The Philosophy of Plotinus

  • William Ralph Inge
1917 to 1919
University of St. Andrews

Inge’s account of Plotinus’ thought is highly commendatory and partisan. He sees the encounter with neoplatonic philosophy as decisive for Christian identity. Plotinus offers a general, philosophical account of mysticism, which Inge finds helpful for his theory of religions. The key influences on Plotinus are held to be Pythagoras and Ammonius Saccas, although of course Plato is the towering figure who haunts all of Plotinus’ thinking.

The Philosophy of Plotinus, vol. 2

  • William Ralph Inge
1917 to 1919
University of St. Andrews

Inge’s account of Plotinus’ thought is highly commendatory and partisan. He sees the encounter with neoplatonic philosophy as decisive for Christian identity. Plotinus offers a general, philosophical account of mysticism, which Inge finds helpful for his theory of religions. The key influences on Plotinus are held to be Pythagoras and Ammonius Saccas, although of course Plato is the towering figure who haunts all of Plotinus’ thinking.

Space, Time and Deity, vol. 1

  • Samuel Alexander
1916 to 1918
University of Glasgow

Space, Time, and Deity develops a system of realistic metaphysics theory. Alexander begins his enquiry with an investigation into space, time and the categories. He then discusses various types of existents and finally considers the nature of deity. The world is explained by Alexander as a single cosmic process with space-time as the basic cosmic matrix.

Space, Time and Deity, vol. 2

  • Samuel Alexander
1916 to 1918
University of Glasgow

Space, Time, and Deity develops a system of realistic metaphysics theory. Alexander begins his enquiry with an investigation into space, time and the categories. He then discusses various types of existents and finally considers the nature of deity. The world is explained by Alexander as a single cosmic process with space-time as the basic cosmic matrix.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilization

  • William Mitchell Ramsay
1915 to 1916
University of Edinburgh

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation can appear in some ways to be a frenetic work. It represents the compilation of significant scholarly research and rich personal experience of Asia Minor in a series of twenty-one lectures that can at times feel disjointed. The richness of the work is its ability to focus on both cultural and historical aspects of a region with rich traditions.

The System of Animate Nature, vol. 1

  • John Arthur Thomson
1914 to 1916
University of St. Andrews

In the beginning was primitive man, someone who only slowly recognized an empirical order of nature. In The System of Animate Nature, Thomson attempts to reconcile scientific and transcendent by examining ‘the abundance and insurgence of life’. Ever so slowly, empirical recognition gave way to an ‘ever broadening and deepening’ scientific order. For Thomson, scientific study circles back, though, and returns to the natural theology of primitive man.

Thomson sketches evolutionary stages, maintenance, then growth and development. With higher animals, birds and mammals, there is evidence of objective ‘trial-and-error experiment and perceptual inference’. Perception leads to the problem of body and mind and the purposive mind. The author closes his book with the question of purpose. For man, he says, it is contemplation of the beautiful. In animate nature, there are ‘far-reaching correspondences to our ideals of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, which suggest a rehabilitation of Natural Theology’. In a moving tribute to the natural world, Thomson declares ‘all natural living creatures must be contemplated without prejudice; in their appropriate surroundings they are artistic harmonies—a joy to behold.’

The System of Animate Nature, vol. 2

  • John Arthur Thomson
1914 to 1916
University of St. Andrews

In this volume, Thomson answers two fundamental questions in biology: what are living creatures and how have they come to be?

The author begins with a brief examination of origins. His primary focus is on epoch-making steps of the ‘making of bodies’, the specialization of function, the evolution of male and female multicellular individuals, the invention of haemoglobin and the establishment of internal surfaces.

Thomson then looks at three evolutionary factors: variation, selection and heredity. The author sees the latter not in a fatalistic light, ‘the hand of the past has such a heavy grip’, but in a positive way, ‘the persistence of the stable, the continual emergence of the new’. Despite being in the middle of the Great War as he delivered his Gifford Lectures, Thompson still affirms ‘the moral law is as real and as external to any man or in any single nation. It is the work of the blood and tears of long generations of men.’ Thomson draws on traditions, literature and religions as proofs that ‘nature is crowned in man’.

Moral Values and the Idea of God

  • William Ritchie Sorley
1913 to 1915
University of Aberdeen

The subject of WR Sorley's Gifford Lectures is the relation between existence and goodness. Their aim is to make plausible a reversal of the order in which fact and value are normally related, making the world of value fundamental and seeking to establish on its basis the intelligibility of a world of fact. Thus, instead of beginning with science and drawing ethical or evaluative conclusions on the strength of its findings, Sorley bases the nature of ultimate reality on an investigation into value. This amounts to claiming that a knowledge of how reality is, can only be arrived at by asking first how ideally it ought to be.

Sorley identifies happiness, truth, beauty and goodness as the four fundamental values, and pays particular attention to the relation between these and persons. Other important themes discussed include the contrast between intrinsic and instrumental value, the nature if imagination, and pluralism versus monism.

The Problem of Personality

  • Henri Bergson
1913 to 1914
University of Edinburgh

Since Bergson's lectures were never published, and his papers were destroyed after his death, we have nothing save the title of his lectures. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains: "Unfortunately, Bergson had written a will during the 1930s which instructed that all of his papers be destroyed. His wife apparently obeyed this order, throwing all of her husband's papers into the fireplace.

Theism and Humanism

  • Arthur James Balfour
1913 to 1914
University of Glasgow

Theism and Humanism, Balfour’s first course of Gifford Lectures given in 1914, is aimed at defending the tenability of natural theology in a manner which appeals to the sensibilities of the ‘common man’. Balfour’s logic in this series rests on his appeal to common sense, finding Theism to be the most sensible and easily understandable basis for aesthetics, ethics and intellectual values such as reason, perception and intuition.

The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead

  • James George Frazer
1911 to 1913
University of St. Andrews

Professor Frazer dedicates these anthropological lectures to examining the notion of immortality as it is held by almost all societies. His main concern is the conception of immortality held by ‘primitive’ communities of aborigines. His lectures are mainly descriptive and cover an extraordinary amount of sources and traditions from all the continents. The ultimate aim of his study is both to cast light on the development of magical beliefs into purer forms of religion as well as to clarify the origin of the notion of immortality our own conception of it.

The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy

  • Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison
1911 to 1913
University of Aberdeen

The principal purpose of these lectures is to examine critically the true significance of Enlightenment philosophy and 19th century biology for Christian theism. A discussion of Kant's attempt to found religious belief on moral experience leads to an exploration of the foundations of the Idealist philosophy of Hegel and his successors, and to its rival — positivistic naturalism.

Evolutionary biology has liberating insights for both theology and philosophy, provided the theory of evolution is understood correctly. Ironically, this proper understanding shows Christianity's moral rival — ethical humanism — to be anti-scientific.

Further reflection on the deficiencies of positivism confirms the cogency of Absolute Idealism, which is not to be confused with pan-psychism, mentalism or “subjective” idealism. The mistakes of some Idealist philosophers have to be corrected, however, chief among them the tendency of Idealist philosophy to deny reality to “finite selves.” Once amended, Idealism gives us reason to abandon the conception of God as a superhuman Creator in favour of creation conceived as an evolutionary “process,” and also provides a more satisfactory answer to the traditional problem of evil.

The Interpretation of Religious Experience, vol. 1

  • John Watson
1910 to 1912
University of Glasgow

The Interpretation of Religious Experience is divided into two parts, published in separate volumes. In the first part entitled Historical Watson reflects critically upon religion and especially upon Christianity, discussing theological and philosophical writers. An enquiry into the origin and development of Christianity is conducted, devoting particular attention both to the systematic formulation of religious experience in theology and also to the influence of philosophy on theology.

The Interpretation of Religious Experience, vol. 2

  • John Watson
1910 to 1912
University of Glasgow

In the second part entitled Constructive Watson gives such an interpretation of religious ideas as may seem to be required by the greater complexity and comprehensiveness of modern thought. Watson attends to the evolution of ideas, concentrating on suggestive ideas in Hegel and his English exponents, though refusing to accept some of the doctrines presented as Hegelian in the works of certain exponents and critics in England and Germany.

The Principle of Individuality and Value

  • Bernard Bosanquet
1910 to 1912
University of Edinburgh

Bernard Bosanquet follows Plato in arguing that human life is a ‘finite’ expression of an infinite Mind underlying all of reality. The ‘world’ is a community of experiences, all of which point to a transcendent Mind within which we can expect to find our complete existence fulfilled. We get a hint of this through science, which seeks to establish ‘general rules’ governing many particular instances. Those general rules indicate that our ‘experience’ constantly tends toward the ‘universal’. The same goes for religious experience. Bosanquet theorizes that religion, or ‘religious consciousness’, as he calls it, cannot ‘prove’ the existence of God, but it can direct our minds toward the ‘infinite’. Even in ‘evil’ and ‘pain’ we can find something of the Absolute. Pain and evil are necessarily a part of our finite beings because they help us to realise the ‘good’ by contrasting with it. For Bosanquet, the ‘good’ is perfection and harmony within the universe, and human life is most valuable when we seek this ‘perfection’ intellectually and spiritually. ‘Evils’ and ‘suffering’ are the phenomena and sentiments that lead us away from this harmony. By resisting such pains, we come closer to harmony with the Absolute, and move away from the material satisfaction we are often led to pursue in our hedonistic lives.

The Evolution of Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome

  • William Ridgeway
1909 to 1911
University of Aberdeen

In a posthumously published sequel to Ridgeway's The Early Age of Greece, vol. 1, A.S.F. Gow and D.S. Robertson write (with reference to the second volume): 'Of the chapter on the gods a few pages were, as has been said, in proof in 1901, but the rest, though it served for Ridgeway's Gifford Lectures at Aberdeen in 1909–11, seems not to have been committed to paper; the others, except for stray notes and collections of material, remained projects.' 'Editors' Preface', in Sir William Ridgeway, The Early Age of Greece, vol.

The Religious Experience of the Roman People from the Earliest Times to the Age of Augustus

  • William Warde Fowler
1909 to 1910
University of Edinburgh

The Religious Experience of the Roman People focuses on the historical transformation of Roman religion, covering a lengthy period from the earliest times to the age of Augustus. Fowler argues that the idea of ‘the primitive religious instinct’ as the germ of the historical Roman religion gradually declined due to the orientation to ritual, but it reshaped itself in new forms from the period of the Punic Wars. He demonstrates that the patrician religion of the early city-state was the religion of an invading race such as the Archaeans in Greece, engraved on the religion of a ‘primitive and less civilized population’. The author concludes by showing how the Roman religion contributed to the formation of early Christianity.

Ideals of Religion

  • Andrew Cecil Bradley
1907 to 1908
University of Glasgow

As indicated by the title, Andrew Cecil Bradley’s course of Gifford Lectures, delivered at Glasgow University in 1907, discuss broadly the central ideas and ideals of religion, considered herein as a common phenomenon, a ‘mere fact’. Through an exploration of such subjects as the spirit, the mind, idealism, truth, reality and good and evil, Bradley’s aim is to explicate what religion is and what human needs it seeks to satisfy. He asserts throughout the lectures the necessary but paradoxical character of religion, namely, the union between finitude (Man) and infinity (God).

The Realm of Ends or Pluralism and Theism

  • James Ward
1907 to 1909
University of St. Andrews

The Realm of Ends: or, Pluralism and Theism contains reprints of the Gifford Lectures that James Ward delivered at the University of St Andrews between 1907 and 1910, though Ward himself considers them to be a sequel to the lecture course he delivered at Aberdeen ten years previously. His aim in this series of lectures is ‘to ascertain what we can know, or reasonably believe, concerning the constitution of the world, interpreted throughout and strictly in terms of Mind’. The series is split into two parts, the first of which argues that the world is best conceived in pluralistic terms, though pluralism is by no means a perfect theoretical system, and the second of which introduces theism as a corrective to the gaps and difficulties inherent in the pluralistic descriptive system.

The Science and Philosophy of Organism, vol. 1

  • Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch
1906 to 1908
University of Aberdeen

The main objective of Science and the Philosophy of Organism is a discussion of the philosophy of organism. The larger part of the work is devoted to providing the reader with the scientific background required to approach this main objective, which Driesch hopes will ultimately show not merely a loose connection between science and philosophy, but rather their close connection under a particular understanding. Nature is analysed as the Givenness of the One, and philosophy is understood as an endeavour to understand this Givenness. '[W]hether nature is studied with regard to what it actually is, that is to say, what really happens in it, or whether we try to discover which elemental parts of our mental organisation come into play in conceiving nature and what "nature" means in the sphere of metaphysics' (374-75) is of little difference – 'the first is generally called science, the latter philosophy. But in the last resort there is only one kind of human knowledge' (375). The philosophy of living nature is expounded on the basis of a thoroughgoing exposition of biological organism centred around three essential features: its form, metabolism and movement. Driesch sees the most important part of his philosophical account as the analysis he makes of the direct justification of entelechy.

The Science and Philosophy of Organism, vol. 2

  • Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch
1906 to 1908
University of Aberdeen

Volume 2 of Science and the Philosophy of Organism has as its major theme the philosophy of organism. The larger part of the volume ('section B' of the entire series) is devoted to this investigation. However, Driesch begins volume 2 with a continuation of the theme of the first volume, which concludes section A — 'The Chief Results of Analytical Biology'. The remaining part (3) of this section (A) is entitled 'Organic Movements' and takes up considerations of the final fundamental feature of any biological organism as identified from the outset of the series (i.e., that all living bodies move).

Synthetica: Being Meditations Epistemological and Ontological, vol. 1

  • Simon Somerville Laurie
1905 to 1906
University of Edinburgh

While in his academic life Simon Somerville Laurie refrained from subscribing to any neo-Hegelian schools of thinking, his Gifford Lectures are nonetheless steeped in a Hegelian interpretation of history and spirituality. In his ‘dialectic’ view of humanity’s progression through the ages, Laurie argues that the ultimate goal of human life is to unite our spirits with God—that is, with the ‘Absolute’ or ‘Unconditioned One’. Yet, unlike some of his predecessors, Laurie does not focus his Gifford Lectures on the sinful or fallen nature of human life. Rather, he argues that God preordained all aspects of life. The evils inherent in it are also a part of Divine life. It is true that while life is at times brutal and evil, it is not in vain, he concludes. Life is a constant struggle, but a struggle with an ‘end’. Each struggle we overcome, each ‘evil’ we avoid, is a progression toward a greater knowledge of God and therefore a reunification with him. In the meantime, we can know God empirically through our perceptions of the natural world, which includes human nature. By better understanding our ethical motivations, for example, we can come to know that part of God that is resident within ourselves. Life is a hunt for the eternal in the world of the finite, and while the ‘eternal’ will never be fully clear to us during our lifetimes, the mystery of God gives us the hope to go on living.

Synthetica: Being Meditations Epistemological and Ontological, vol. 2

  • Simon Somerville Laurie
1905 to 1906
University of Edinburgh

While in his academic life Simon Sommerville Laurie refrained from subscribing to any neo-Hegelian schools of thinking, his Gifford Lectures are nonetheless steeped in a Hegelian interpretation of history and spirituality. In his ‘dialectic’ view of humanity’s progression through the ages, Laurie argues that the ultimate goal of human life is to unite our spirits with God—that is, with the ‘Absolute’ or ‘Unconditioned One’. Yet, unlike some of his predecessors, Laurie does not focus his Gifford Lectures on the sinful or fallen nature of human life. Rather, he argues that God preordained all aspects of life. The evils inherent in it are also a part of Divine life. It is true that while life is at times brutal and evil, it is not in vain, he concludes. Life is a constant struggle, but a struggle with an ‘end’. Each struggle we overcome, each ‘evil’ we avoid, is a progression toward a greater knowledge of God and therefore a reunification with him. In the meantime, we can know God empirically through our perceptions of the natural world, which includes human nature. By better understanding our ethical motivations, for example, we can come to know that part of God that is resident within ourselves. Life is a hunt for the eternal in the world of the finite, and while the ‘eternal’ will never be fully clear to us during our lifetimes, the mystery of God gives us the hope to go on living.

The Religious Teachers of Greece

  • James Adam
1904 to 1906
University of Aberdeen

The Religious Teachers of Greece traces the development of the religious tradition of ancient Greece from Homer to Plato. Adam is particularly concerned with the tensions between poets and philosophers in the progress of religious ideas at that time.

Science et religion dans la philosophie contemporaine

  • Emile Boutroux
1903 to 1905
University of Glasgow

Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy is among the few works of the French spiritualist Émile Boutroux available in an English translation. The volume explores the interchange between science and religion in what at the turn of the previous century was modern philosophy. Having dialogued with Comte, Spencer, Haeckel, Ritschl, and James, Boutroux argues in his conclusion that science and religion are indispensable facets of existence which perform different roles by describing distinct aspects of reality.

The Knowledge of God and Its Historical Development, vol. 1

  • Henry Melvill Gwatkin
1903 to 1905
University of Edinburgh

Gwatkin’s lectures are published in two parts which do not correspond entirely to the division in the lecture series. The first volume is the more philosophical of the two and addresses arguments for the existence of God based upon uniformity in the natural world; the possibility of personal revelation; that all revelation comes from God and is practical, moral and rational; revelation as expressed through the actions of God; historic facts as means of revelation; and the continuing nature of revelation as challenging to dogmatic faith. The final portion of the first volume comprises three lectures from the second series and addresses the development of primitive religions, the rise of polytheism and anthropomorphism and the fundamental shift in Western religious thinking brought about through Greek philosophy.

The Knowledge of God and Its Historical Development, vol. 2

  • Henry Melvill Gwatkin
1903 to 1905
University of Edinburgh

This volume reads as much like a history of Christianity as a study of natural theology. The theme that runs throughout is the nature of revelation and the traditions of interpreting it in Judaism and Christianity. Additionally, it makes regular connections and comparisons between these traditions and Islam throughout. This volume contributed significantly to the author’s Early Church History (1909). Some critics have argued that anti-Catholic sentiment and lightly veiled criticism of Episcopalianism detract from the overall value of the lectures.

The Pathway to Reality

  • Richard Burdon Haldane
1902 to 1904
University of St. Andrews

In The Pathway to Reality, Haldane’s goal is to account for ‘the world as it seems’; rational abstract thought is the key. Thought does not exist apart from its object. The universal exists in and though the particular. Only by focusing on the actuality of what is singular and individual can the universal and particular, which can only emerge as abstractions, have reality. For Haldane, consciousness is of paramount importance. Consciousness, and its content experience, is an attempt to move from the finite to the sublime. In four small books bound together in two volumes, the author explains how thinking of one’s own limits leads to transcendence and ultimately to an understanding of the absolute mind and the nature of God. Homiletic-oriented theology fails in its view of God; only philosophy and metaphysics can more fully grasp God as Mind. Religion then is the form of consciousness of an act of will completed. Haldane summarizes his belief by saying, ‘[T]he faith which characterizes the self-surrender of the will in Religion is a sense of reality above and beyond what is seen.’

The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers

  • Edward Caird
1900 to 1902
University of Glasgow

The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers gives an account of those ideas of Greek Philosophers which have decisively affected the subsequent development of theological thought. The selection of topics is confined mainly to the writings of Plato and Aristotle, to the main representatives of the Stoic philosophy, and to Philo and Plotinus among the Neo-Platonists.

The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia

  • Archibald Henry Sayce
1900 to 1902
University of Aberdeen

The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia aims to relate the religious thought of these ancient traditions to subsequent religious traditions that are still in practice. The religions of ancient Egypt and of Babylonia illustrate the world of the evangelist, forming the background for Judaism and, eventually, for Christianity, which Sayce sees as ‘the fulfilment of all that is truest and the best’ in these ancient teachings. The series is not an attempt to give a systematic account of these ancient religions, rather it is to present the facts as they have been found from such systematic studies (or, at least, that is in the case of the religion of ancient Egypt) and to relate them to contemporary understandings of religion in the modern era. There has been no systematic study of the religion of Babylonia since the materials available to the historian on this subject are limited. However, Sayce recounts the facts that can be drawn from the available material. While there are impassable gulfs between the teachings both modern and ancient, nevertheless, it is evident that there is much in the ancient teachings that remains at the heart of both Judaism and Christianity.

The Varieties of Religious Experience

  • William James
1900 to 1902
University of Edinburgh

Approaching religious experience as a subject of scientific study, William James used the methods he gained as a physiologist, psychologist and philosopher. Rather than basing the work on anthropological data collected personally, he used personal documents of individuals who had recorded their own experiences. The work is neither a theological treatise nor a history of religion, but rather ‘a descriptive survey’ of general tendencies shared among his subjects. Moreover, the study is not limited to a systematic explanation of the causes of individual religious experience, but focuses equally on the result of such experiences and the impact upon the person’s life.

The World and the Individual

  • Josiah Royce
1898
University of Aberdeen

Royce distinguishes three approaches to natural theology. These lectures consist in an investigation of the third type, “the philosophy of religion,” which concerns itself with the metaphysics of Being and hence with God, while not depending on any special revelation.

In the first set of lectures, Royce expounds and defends a version of Absolute Idealism against its three rivals in the history of Western thought — Realism, Mysticism and Critical Rationalism (or Kantianism).

Elements of the Science of Religion

  • Cornelius Petrus Tiele
1896
University of Edinburgh

Elements of Science of Religion: Morphological provides Tiele’s definition of religion and establishes a philosophical framework for the study of religion as a scientific discipline. Religion is defined not as the outward expressions of forms and rituals but as the internalized beliefs in the ‘superhuman’ which motivate a response. The work also charts the progression of religion and argues that is always multiplying in its diversities while simultaneously experiencing constant simplification.

Naturalism and Agnosticism

  • James Ward
1896
University of Aberdeen

Ward's lecture series (Naturalism and Agnosticism) seeks to defend an adequate basis for theistic inquiry in light of certain assumptions made by science that would preclude such an inquiry's possibility. Naturalism has a tendency to favour materialism. Where naturalism takes agnosticism for its ally (something it must do if its doctrines are not to remain dogma) and is, thereby, forced to choose between spiritualism and materialism, it opts for the materialist terminology (albeit for practical purposes in the progression of scientific enquiry).

Religion in Greek Literature

  • Lewis Campbell
1894 to 1896
University of St. Andrews

“The deepest want of our age is to have a new definition of God,” could summarize Lewis Campbell’s Religion in Greek Literature.

Philosophy and Development of Religion

  • Otto Pfleiderer
1892 to 1894
University of Edinburgh

Otto Pfleiderer’s Gifford Lectures from 1894 are published in two distinct series of ten lectures which represent the two volumes of the work. Volume I focuses on the Philosophy of Religion, examining aspects of relevance for the discussion of natural religion, and Volume II focuses on historical developments within Christianity, presenting major stages and thinkers in the history of the church. Each of the books is divided further into different lectures which can be read as sections standing on their own, yet they from also a cohesive unit in their consecutive progression.

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