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.

Theism and Thought

  • Arthur James Balfour
1922 to 1923
University of Glasgow

Following the warm and enthusiastic reception of his first course of Gifford Lectures, Balfour was asked to give a second course some nine years later, following the end of the First World War, entitled Theism and Thought. The lectures which make up the majority of the volume Theism and Thought complete the project begun in his first course (published in the volume Theism and Humanism in 1914), by buttressing his initial argument with a thorough defence of common sense philosophy and the reliability of sense perception.

Personal Knowledge

  • Michael Polanyi
1951 to 1952
University of Aberdeen

Personal Knowledge is a treatise on the nature and justification of scientific knowledge. Ultimately, it is designed to show that complete objectivity in the exact sciences is delusion and, ‘in fact’, a false ideal with crippling consequences. We inevitably see the universe from a personal point of view and this, in turn, is inevitably shaped by our human interactions. Attempts to eliminate the personal perspective from our view of the world lead to absurdity. ‘Personal knowledge’ inescapably involves the epistemic standpoint of the investigator. It is an intellectual commitment and, however hazardous, ultimately tends to liberate. To count as knowledge, it must be possible for affirmations to be false. However, items of knowledge are not arbitrary, but rather responsible and intelligent commitments based on the investigator’s epistemic standpoint, skills and human interactions.

Jon Cameron
University of Aberdeen

The Nature and Limits of Human Understanding

  • Brian Hebblethwaite
  • George Lakoff
  • Lynne Rudder Baker
  • Michael Ruse
  • Philip Johnson-Laird
University of Glasgow

The 2001 Gifford Lectures commemorate the 550th anniversary of the founding of the University of Glasgow in 1451. In two lectures each, five scholars from various disciplines examine The Nature and Limits of Human Understanding. In Part I, cognitive psychologist Philip Johnson-Laird discusses the relationship between language and understanding. In Part II, linguist George Lakoff explores the mind-body relationship and the shaping influence of embodiment on thought, arguing for a new philosophy of ‘embodied realism’.

Reason's Empire

  • Simon Blackburn
2003 to 2004
University of Glasgow

In his introduction, Blackburn describes this work as a cursory investigation of the philosophical schools and figures that constitute the debate between relativism and absolutism. Truth is a matter of great importance for all people, but it is particularly significant for those in scientific, philosophical and religious communities. It is to these groups of people that Blackburn’s analysis is directed.

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