Language, reality and religion: Rowan Williams' Gifford Lectures

By Press Office
November 5, 2013

Noted scholar and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is delivering six lectures as part of the prestigious University of Edinburgh Gifford Lecture series this month. The first was last night and the second is tonight (5 November 2013).

The lectures explore the links between nature, religion and the language habits our society has developed. The formal title for the series is "Making representations: religious faith and the habits of language"

Dr Williams is speaking at 5.30pm on 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, and 14 November 2013 in the University's Assembly Hall at New College on Mound Place.

The 5 November lecture is entitled 'Can we say what we like? Language, freedom and determinism'.

"If speech is a physical act, is it ultimately something we must think of as part of a pre-determined material system? It is difficult to state this without contradiction. Indeed, once we recognise the unstable relationship between what we say and the environment we are seeking to put into words, we cannot treat speech as simply another physical process. Further, we cannot ignore the way in which speech is 'bound' to stimuli that it does not originate (if we did, we could have no conception of what a mistake or a lie was).

"We use our language in order to enhance or refine our skill at living in a world that both demands understanding and invites us into the awareness of an unconditioned intelligent energy."

Doors open tonight at 5.00pm.

* Tickets are free, but booking is essential. You can book online for each lecture via EventBrite. Full details and booking links are here:

Each lecture will also be streamed live on that page, and made available as a video a soon as practicable afterwards. The lectures ail also be published in book form, as is customary.

The full series is as follows:

Lecture 1: Representing reality (yesterday - 04/11)
Lecture 2: Can we say what we like? Language, freedom and determinism (tonight - 05/11)
Lecture 3: No last words: language as unfinished business (07/11)
Lecture 4: Material words: language as physicality (11/11)
Lecture 5: Extreme language: discovery under pressure (12/11)
Lecture 6: Can truth be spoken? (14/11)
Lord Williams of Oystermouth's Gifford Lecture series discussion (14/11)

* More on the Gifford Lectures from Ekklesia:

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