The prestigious Gifford Lectureships were established by Adam Lord Gifford (1820–1887), a senator of the College of Justice in Scotland. The purpose of Lord Gifford’s bequest to the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews and Aberdeen was to sponsor lectures to “promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term—in other words, the knowledge of God”.

This website carries full information about the lecture series given at the University of St Andrews.

Gifford Lectures 2024

Prof. Clare Carlisle (King’s College London) will give a series of Gifford Lectures in St Andrews this coming semester, beginning on Tuesday 19 March. The title of the series is Transcendence for Beginners: Life Writing and Philosophy.

Biography is a humble literary genre, yet it opens up grand philosophical questions. What is the shape, purpose, value and meaning of a human life? Which parts or aspects of a life are most important? How much freedom and responsibility went into making this particular life? What kind of truth is at stake in answering these questions? Even more fundamentally: what is a human life? Clare Carlisle’s lectures will explore life writing across a broad philosophical terrain traversing European and Indian traditions, and according to a Spinozist view of ‘Natural Theology’ (the subject-matter specified by Lord Gifford when he endowed these lectures) which sees all singular things as expressions of ‘God or Nature.’ Along the way she will consider childhood and mortality, art and religion, beauty and loss. Drawing on her own experience as a biographer of Søren Kierkegaard and George Eliot, Professor Carlisle will ask what one whole human life can reveal about the world—and how writing can transmit its truth.

  1. Tuesday 19 March: Halfway Up a Mountain
  2. Thursday 21 March: Life Writing
  3. Tuesday 26 March: The Milieu
  4. Thursday 28 March: Incarnations
  5. Tuesday 2 April: Arunachala
  6. Thursday 4 April: Transcendence For Beginners

All lectures will take place in School 2 in St. Salvator’s Quad at 5pm.

For further information about this series, contact James Harris at [email protected].