Saturday, February 25, 2023

Law and Beauty

 A man's inventions may be stupid or clever, but if he does not hold by the laws of them, or if he makes one law jar with another, he contradicts himself as an inventor, he is no artist. He does not rightly consort his instruments, or he tunes them in different keys. The mind of man is the product of live Law; it thinks by law, it dwells in the midst of law, it gathers from law its growth; with law, therefore, can it alone work to any result. Inharmonious, unconsorting ideas will come to a man, but if he try to use one of such, his work will grow dull, and he will drop it from mere lack of interest. Law is the soil in which alone beauty will grow; beauty is the only stuff in which Truth can be clothed; and you may, if you will, call Imagination the tailor that cuts her garments to fit her, and Fancy his journeyman that puts the pieces of them together, or perhaps at most embroiders their button-holes. Obeying law, the maker works like his creator; not obeying law, he is such a fool as heaps a pile of stones and calls it a church.

George MacDonald, "The Fantastic Imagination".

Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian


Opening Passage: As the book is an anthology of texts, I provide the opening passages for "The Hyborian Age", the essay Howard wrote laying out the basic chronological and sociopolitical background for his Conan stories, and for "Red Nails", the last of all the Conan stories, first serialized posthumously after Howard's suicide:

Of that epoch known by the Nemedian chroniclers as the Pre-Cataclysmic Age, little is known except the latter part, and that is veiled in the mists of legendry. Known history begins with the waning of the Pre-Cataclysmic civilization, dominated by the kingdoms of Kamelia, Valusia, Verulia, Grondar, Thule, and Commoria. These peoples spoke a similar language, arguing a common origin. There were other kingdoms, equally civilized, but inhabited by different, and apparently older races. (p. 11)

The woman on the horse reined in her weary steed. It stood with its legs wide-braced, its head drooping, as if it found even the weight of the gold-tassled, red-leather bridle too heavy. The woman drew a booted foot out of the silver stirrup and swung down from the gilt-worked saddle. She made the reins fast to the fork of a sapling, and turned about, hands on her hips, to survey her surroundings. (p. 421)

Summary: Howard's essay, "The Hyborian Age", gives us the essential background of the story. We are in very ancient times; the lands are not as they are now. In terms of how things are structured it is clear that we are mostly in what today would be Europe and North Africa, extending eastward beyond what we call the Caspian Sea, which is a much larger body of water than it is today. Many of the kingdoms that are particularly important are in fact in what today would be the Mediterranean Sea, which is not yet a sea. The distances, however, are in practice somewhat squashed, although this is mostly in the seams rather than within the stories; Conan in different stories pops up all over the map, having more adventure, and across a wider geographical expanse, than anyone could have in a lifetime. The world is dominated by what are known as the Hyborian Kingdoms, especially wealthy Aquilonia. The Hyborians were a relatively minor northern tribe in the centuries after the Cataclysm that destroyed Atlantis who happened to discover how to make impregnable stone fortresses, allowing them to dominate much larger areas of land than other tribes; they expanded out of Hyperborea and began taking over everything. However, at the time of the Conan stories the Hyborian Kingdoms are in an extended period of decline. They were early on resisted to the west by the much more ancient Pictish tribes (the remnants of the greatest enemies of Atlantis), who have already started slowly pushing them back. In the south, they never managed to penetrate much into Darfar, and the old civilizations in the area have also begun pushing back heavily. And in the north, they are being overrun by an even more deadly enemy. Long ago, their ancestors pushed a species of fairly intelligent snow ape into the deep arctic; the snow apes, however, seem to have evolved into two very aggressive warrior civilizations, the Vanir and the Aesir, who are, despite the best Hyborian efforts, expanding everywhere except in Hyperborea, where the Hyborians are most solidly entrenched. All the kingdoms are inevitably doomed, in any case, although they don't know that, because between us and them is yet another Cataclysm, one that makes the world as we know it.

Fair use, Link

The novelty of it is, I think, easily lost on us, who live in an age of Howard imitators, particularly in the form of comic book media, but the mish-mash character of the Hyborian Age is a stroke of brilliance. If you think about all of the different kinds of adventure stories one might have read up to the 1930s, they are in a dizzying array of different locales; the nineteenth century, which really sees the rise of the adventure story, was the first truly global era, and people read in their penny dreadfuls and triple-deckers of all the strange, exotic locations that, once only rumors, were now open to them. Of course, in many ways the exoticism of these exotic locales was exaggerated to make them seem as strange as possible, but that made the adventure more exciting than not. Howard's brilliant stroke was to create a framework in which all of these different adventure-aesthetics could be had equally. Conan is the Everyman Adventurer, wandering through all the different possible kinds of adventure stories. 

In the works in this anthology, we see this clearly. "Shadows in the Moonlight" takes place in a broader context of Hyrkanian pirates on the Vilayet Sea. "Queen of the Black Coast" gives us Argosian pirates in the Western Ocean, raiding on the coast south of Argos. "The Devil in Iron", taking place on the southern end of the Vilayet Sea, gives us a little taste of proto-Persian aesthetic in our adventure. "The People of the Black Circle" finds Conan dealing with secret magician societies in Vendhya, away off to the southeast, in what is aesthetically the Indian subcontinent. In "A Witch Shall Be Born" we are in Khauran, with a Middle Eastern aesthetic. "Jewels of Gwahlur" occurs in Keshan, and an African aesthetic dominated by the ancient and powerful kingdom of Zembabwei.  "Beyond the Black River" occurs in the Pictish territory, in which the aesthetic is Pictish and savage Celtic. "Shadows in Zamboula" returns us to the Middle Eastern aesthetic. "Red Nails" goes way south, into Darfar, and psychs us out by initially suggesting that the adventure-aesthetic will be African, then throwing us a twist as Conan and the pirate woman Valeria have to deal with a 'dragon' that is pretty clearly a dinosaur, and then find themselves in a harrowing adventure with an Aztec/Olmec aesthetic. The recognition of the aesthetic style as integral to the adventurousness of the adventure story is brilliant; and it's even better, because of course, the borders are not heremetically sealed. You can have Valeria, pirate girl, rapiering her way through Aztec-Olmec wars; you can have Kothic mercenaries, a bit Gothic and a bit Roman, meddling in a Middle Eastern tale; you can, in short, have any cocktail of adventure-aesthetics that you wish. And because of that, you can build with any set of adventure tropes, like modular blocks. Besides pirates and secret magician societies and dinosaurs, we also get cannibal cults and lost cities and terrible demons (the world of Conan is part of the broader Cthulhu Mythos created by Lovecraft and his friends, of whom Howard was one, so we get the Lovecraftian, not often, but occasionally) and political scheming and cursed treasures and wizards capable of controlling wild beasts and human sacrifices and terrifying great apes and people with a terrible secret that gives them perpetual life. You get all the aesthetics of whatever historical fiction you might like, without the need to worry about strict historical accuracy. The mash-up technique would be copied so widely that it has become familiar and trite and occasionally very absurd. But there is a brilliance to the original conception, the Super-Adventure that includes all flavors of adventure.

Of the stories collected here, "Red Nails" and "Queen of the Black Coast" are easily the best as stories, with their layered construction and engaging non-Conan female characters -- in "Red Nails" the independent and coolly ironic swashbuckler Valeria, in "Queen of the Black Coast" the fiercely passionate Belit. Interestingly, both the women are pirates; Howard seems to have liked the notion of a pirate-queen and he writes them both reasonably well. But in some ways, in all these sword-and-sorcery tales, the parts I liked best were the sorcery parts, in which Conan brushes up against some unnatural and inexplicable devilry -- an iron-bodied devil-god in "The Devil in Iron", mesmerists who can manipulate the mind in "The People of the Black Circle", Zogar Sag speaking the ancient beast-language to the animals who remember their ancient ways under the beast-god in "Beyond the Black River". It is with such things, the things that cannot be handled by brute force, that we often see Conan put to his best test.

Conan himself is usually the least interesting thing in any given story. He is a physically powerful and highly trained Cimmerian barbarian, the Cimmerians being descendants of the Atlanteans and ancient enemies of the Picts, who will eventually wander in part to the region of what we call the Caucasus. But we rarely get anything of his Cimmerian life; he has been wandering the world, as soldier, guard, bandit, pirate, horseback raider, mercenary. He is clever and speaks (and reads!) many languages. He can keep his head in any difficult situation, and he's not one to back down from a fight. He is not a particularly virtuous or honorable person. Almost every character is self-centered and savage in some way, and he is no different. But he can be our hero in part because we don't usually see him actually engaging in savage acts of piracy and the like (most of which take place offstage) and in part because there is just no malice in him. He would think it beneath him to harm the weak; he would think it beneath him to back down from the strong; he will absolutely kill anyone who tries to kill him; he is savage and uncivilized in his tastes and interests; but he's never out to make life worse for anyone who isn't bothering him. He lives in a primitive and savage time, and he is primitive enough and savage enough to handle doing so; but we see in him the human potential for extraordinary things.

The most vivid and remembered scene in all of the Conan mythos is found in "A Witch Shall Be Born". The story itself is not generally considered one of the better Conan stories. I found it interesting, but it is the case that Conan is almost a secondary character for most of it and the demon Thaug seems thrown into it just to make it weirder. But in the course of the tale, the Kothic mercenary Constantius attempts to kill Conan by crucifying him in the desert, where under the terrible sun he slowly works free of the nails of the cross, the Tree of Death. But his crucifixion is less like the crucifixion of Christ and more like the binding of Prometheus, and when he works his way free, he inevitably returns the favor to Constantius. Many of the stories are about the savagery underneath our veneer of civilization, about the fact that all of our civilized life teeters on a cliff and could easily be destroyed, whether by Cataclysm or our own degeneration into softness; but the same thing that makes us potential savages also makes us hard to kill, and makes us able to survive in the most unlikely circumstances. Conan, savage though he is, works as a hero because we see in his savagery not malice but our own capacity to survive.

Favorite Passage:  From "Red Nails" (part of the joke here is that Conan does in fact become a Hyborian king in other stories, published much earlier but chronologically later in narrative time):

'Skin your teeth in that pear. It's food and drink to a desert man. I was chief of the Zuagirs once -- desert men who live by plundering the caravans.'

'Is there anything you haven't been?' inquired the girl, half in derision and half in fascination.

'I've never been a king of an Hyborian kingdom,' he grinned, taking an enormous mouthful of cactus. 'But I've dreamed of being even that. I may be too, some day. Why shouldn't I?' (p. 442)

Recommendation: Recommended.


Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian, Prion (London: 2010).

Friday, February 24, 2023

Slow Sift the Sands of Time

 The Sands of Time
by Robert E. Howard 

Slow sift the sands of Time; the yellowed leaves
Go drifting down an old and bitter wind;
Across the frozen moors the hedges stand
In tattered garments that the frost have thinned. 

A thousand phantoms pluck my ragged sleeve,
Wan ghosts of souls long into darkness thrust.
Their pale lips tell lost dreams I thought mine own,
And old sick longings smite my heart to dust. 

I may not even dream of jeweled dawns,
Nor sing with lips that have forgot to laugh.
I fling aside the cloak of Youth and limp
A withered man upon a broken staff.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Illustrious Teacher, Pre-eminent Martyr

 Today is the feast of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr. Polycarp was a student of the apostle John, ordained by him in Smyrna; we know this from St. Irenaeus, who as a young man heard him preach, and these points are confirmed by others. He was, by all accounts, quite old by the time he was martyred. According to himself, he had lived at least eighty-six years before his martyrdom, which was probably in the 150s, but we don't now if he meant that he was eighty-six then or if it had been eighty-six years since his baptism (and we don't know if he was baptized as an infant, a youth, or a young man). As one of the Apostolic Fathers, he is (with St. Ignatius and St. Clement) a major source of our information about the Christian generations immediately after the Apostles.

From his letter to the Philippians (Chapter XII):

For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, "Be ye angry, and sin not," and, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." Happy is he who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you. But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who raised Him from the dead. Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that ye may be perfect in Him.

The details of St. Polycarp's martyrdom are found in The Martyrdom of Polycarp, one of the earliest Christian hagiographies, compiled by the church at Smyrna, probably within a few decades of his death. It's often reliable as to details, although it likely is filtered through the church at Smyrna's yearly commemoration of his death; some people have argued that its account of the actual legal proceedings is implausible, but inaccuracies are a common issue with portrayals of legal proceedings in all ages (including our own), and this would be particularly true if what we are getting is not direct transcripts of the trials but the trial as it was remembered and commemorated by the local congregation. In any case, The Martyrdom of Polycarp is itself a valuable source of information about views and attitudes in the age of the Apostolic Fathers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Elpizomenon Hypostasis Pragmaton

 And faith is title to expected facts, proof of the unperceived. For in this the elders were witnessed. By faith we understand the ages to be completed by divine utterance, what is perceived not being made from what is apparent.

By faith Abel brought a fuller sacrifice than Kain, through which he was witnessed to be just, God witnessing to his gifts, and through it, having died, he yet speaks. By faith Henoch was transferred, so as not to experience death; and he was not discovered because God had transferred him. For before the transfer he was witnessed to have gratified God. Thus what is without faith cannot please him, for one worshiping God ought to believe that he is, and to those seeking him, he becomes a rewarder.

By faith, having been given oracle of things not yet even perceived, Noe constructed a box for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the universe, according to faith becoming inheritor of justice. By faith being summoned, Abraam obeyed, leaving to the place he was receiving for an inheritance, and leaving without knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of the promise, as foreign, residing in tents with Isaak and Iakob, the joint-inheritors of the same promise, for he was waiting for the city to be founded whose architect and maker is God. By faith also barren Sara herself, received power for conception of seed, even beyond the opportune age, because she considered the promiser faithful. Thus also from one man, and he having been dead-like, those as the stars of heaven in multitude, and countless as the sand by the shore of the sea. In faith these all died, not having laid hold of the promises, but having seen them from a distance, and having welcomed, and having assented, to being foreigners and aliens on the earth. For those saying such things make apparent that they are seeking their own country. And if indeed they had brought to mind whence they issued, they would have had opportunity to turn back; so they stretch forward to what is nobler, that is, what is heavenly. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, being named from them, because he has readied a city for them. By faith, Abraam tendered Isaak; put to the test, even the only son was being offered to the promises, by one to whom it had been said, In Isaak your seed will be called, having reasoned that God was capable, even to raise from death, from which in likeness he also received him.

And by faith about the intended, Isaak blessed Iakob and Esau. By faith, Iakob blessed each of the sons of Ioseph and worshiped on the top of his staff. By faith Ioseph, expiring, brought to mind the departure of the sons of Israel, and gave instructions about his bones.

By faith Moyses, having been born, was concealed three months by his parents, because they saw the childling was handsome, and they did not fear the decree of the king. By faith Moyses, having grown great, rejected being called the son of the daughter of Pharao, preferring rather to suffer ill-treatment with God's people than to hold the opportunity of enjoying sin, having esteemed reproach with Christ greater wealth than the treasuries of Aegyptos, because he was looking toward the repayment. By faith he left Aegptos behind, not having feared the forcefulness of the king, for, as if seeing the unseen, he persevered. By faith he has kept the passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the one destroying the firstborn would not injure them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as if by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were swallowed.

By faith the walls of Iericho fell, having been encircled for seven days. By faith Raab the prosititute did not perish along with the unbelievers, having received the scouts with peace. And what more shall I say? Time will fail for me to tell of Gedeon, Barak, Sampson, Iephthae, Dauid also, and Samouel, and the prophets, who through faith overcame realms, practiced justice, obtained promises, closed the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of fire, escaped the mouths of swords, were empowered from out of frailty, became strong in war, put to flight hosts of foreigners. Women received their dead by resurrection, others were tortured, not waiting for ransom, so that they might obtain a nobler resurrection. Others received trial from mockings and floggings, and also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were tested, they were sawed through, they died by slaughter of sword. They wandered in sheepskins, in goats' skins, being deprived, being oppressed, being tormented, of whom the universe was not worthy, roaming the wastes and mountains and caves and crevices of the earth. And none of them, having been witnessed through faith, received the promise, God having planned something better for us, so that they should not be completed without us.

[Hebrews 11:1-40, my very, very rough translation. This passage was immensely more difficult than I was expecting, for a number of reasons, one of which is that I think most English translations don't convey how tightly interwoven this passage actually is. It's easy to read it as just a list of faithful people, but there  is a lot going on here. The opening is not just a flourish or definition of terms; the points raised by it are reiterated throughout, so that the passage has a well-defined argument, stating its thesis, arguing for it, and then coming back to the thesis at the end. We likewise have throughout an interplay of the seen and unseen, which is found throughout the passage through distinct but interwoven concepts about having what one doesn't have: witness/testimony/commendation, inheritance, promise. If you have testimony, you have evidence of what is not evident; if you are an heir, you possess what is not in possession; if you have a promise, you have a grant for what has not yet been granted. And, of course, if you have faith, you own what is merely hoped-for and prove what is not perceived.

Hypostasis literally means 'substance', but it can also mean a title or deed, and given the passage's emphasis on inheritance likely does. The words I've translated throughout by 'witness' and its cognates gave me considerable trouble; they are the words from which we get the word 'martyr', and they can mean  'testimony', 'witness', 'evidence', 'commendation', 'martyrdom'. They could get every one of these meanings at some point in the passage, and this seems very deliberate. So it was a choice between obscuring the repetition by translating it in different ways or obscuring the point by using the same word throughout, and I chose the latter, since as I've been doing with these, I'm less interested in the best translation qua translation than in at least capturing some of the key things in the text that might get lost. There are a number of places where the passage is idiomatic from very tight concision; for instance, Jacob worshiping 'on the top of his staff', which, as most translations have it, almost certainly right, is probably intended to indicate his leaning on the staff.]

Even the Gates of Nineveh

 The Gates of Nineveh
by Robert E. Howard 

These are the gates of Nineveh: here
Sargon came when his wars were won,
Gazed at the turrets looming clear
Boldly etched in the morning sun. 

Down from his chariot Sargon came,
Tossed his helmet upon the sand,
Dropped his sword with its blade like flame,
Stroked his beard with his empty hand. 

"Towers are flaunting their banners red;
The people greet me with song and mirth.
But a weird is on me," Sargon said,
"And I see the end of the tribes of earth."

 "Cities crumble, and chariots rust.
I see through a fog that is strange and gray
All kingly things fade back to the dust,
Even the gates of Nineveh."

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Peter Damian

 Today is the feast of St. Pietro Damiani, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. From St. Peter Damian's Letter 91 to Patriarch Constantine Lichoudes of Constantinople: 

 But if one should ask, "Since the Son is of the substance of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is also of the substance of the Father, why is one the Son and the other not also the Son?" it would not be inconsistent to reply as follows. The Son is from the Father, the Holy Spirit is from the Father, but the former is begotten, while the latter proceeds; and therefore the former is the Son of the Father, from whom he is begotten, while the latter is the Spirit of both because he proceeds from both. Nevertheless, this begetting and procession are not only ineffable but also totally incomprehensible. But in those things which we are unable to penetrate with the power of our mind, we apply a sure faith to those through whom the Holy Spirit has spoken, just as if the matter lay clearly before our eyes. And even though these hidden mysteries of profound depth are unknown to us, still we are not in doubt about what the Lord has spoken, we are also not uncertain about what is found in the pronouncements of the prophets. 

 [Peter Damian, Letters 91-120, Blum, tr., The Fathers of the Church: Medieval Continuation, CUA Press (Washington DC: 1998) p. 11.]

Monday, February 20, 2023

Evening Note for Monday, February 20

 Thought for the Evening: Phenomenology of Inquiry

Phenomenology is fundamentally based on the recognition that things are experienced and known through structures and processes of consciousness; that, in scholastic terms, the res or thing itself is adequated to the mind qua object of mind. Methodologically, phenomenology prescinds from the status of the res or thing in itself and assesses the nature and character of the objects, i.e., the structures and processes, as they are in consciousness. In short, rather than consider what something is in itself, in phenomenology one considers how it appears and can appear in conscious mental life. So if we are talking about the phenomenology of inquiry, we prescind from any questions of effectiveness or status of result (realism, anti-realism, ficitonalism, skepticism, etc.) and look only at the phenomenon of inquiry as a phenomenon of our mental life.

If we set aside for the moment very complicated inquiries and try to consider the simplest possible inquiries, we might characterize these very simple inquiries in terms of questions. Is there a clean pair of socks in the drawer? Do I have milk in the refrigerator? Is the dial on the measurement device registering a number? This might be called the erotetic aspect of inquiry, it's susceptibility to be captured or described or depicted in questions. However, inquiries and questions are distinct things. We can idly pose a question, or treat it as rhetorical, or what have you. An inquiry might be characterized by a question, but much in the way an act of question can be so characterized -- the act of questioning, in which one seeks something, is different from the question that describes what the act of questioning seeks. The original name for this 'seeking' aspect of inquiry is erotic, indicating that it is an expression of motivating love or desire for something one does not have, but as the name is obviously liable to misunderstanding, we can instead call it the zetetic aspect. With the erotetic aspect of inquiry, we are looking at inquiry in light of a verbal expression of its structure; with the zetetic aspect of inquiry, we are looking at it in light of something cognitive that is desired or valued, for which we are performing the inquiry. An inquiry is a structure for a value, and neither the structure nor the value can be reduced to the other. These are distinct aspects of inquiry, although they aren't divisible from each other in the inquiry itself.

Inquiries also do not exist in a void. We inquire on the basis of what we know, in a very broad sense of 'know'.  This background serves as a framework that allows both the construction of the verbal expressions of the inquiry (the erotetic) and the specification of the values at which it aims (the zetetic); in a sense, it serves as the space for the inquiry, so we could perhaps call it the choratic framework. However, the space is able to change in the course of the inquiry -- in inquiring we acquire knowledge, so by inquiring we acquire new elements for the framework. 

Thus basic inquiry, as it is experience involved a choratic framework of prior knowledge, an erotetic structure within that framework that can be formulated in verbal expressions as a system of questions, and a zetetic tendency aimed at something cognitive that is not had but valued under some values. This does not fundamentally change when we move to more complicated inquiries, but as we become more complicated, the variety of expressions we need in order to characterize the structure expands, including more than just questions. For instance, we can get branching hypothetical structures in which the system of questions used depends on which conditions are fulfilled. Likewise, we can get imperatives, as when in a mathematical proof one says, "Let X be Y". It's even possible that the expressions don't even have to be strictly verbal, as long as they are informative.

In more complicated inquiries, we also get complications of the zetetic aspect, although they are harder to characterized. An example is that we can sometimes have branching values corresponding to branches in the erotetic aspect; it's also the case that as our choratic framework and erotetic aspect change, the zetetic aspect can shift in ways that blur or obfuscate what values characterize our aims.

Besides the choratic framework, the erotetic aspect, and the zetetic aspect, we also have means of inquiry, a motley crew of things that are linked to but distinct from the choratic framework, and that can include things like skills (pure means), tools (extended means), resources (things to exercise our tools upon), responses from the environment, and so forth. These are organized erotetically and zetetically within the inquiry as we move from our initial state to our cognitive goal.

All of these are navigated in a non-methodical way. We have no method for all inquiry. Rather, we 'feel' our way through inquiries by a combination of things. First, we seem to have certain 'senses' for how the inquiry goes. We have a sense of feasibility arising from our comparison of the choratic framework and the means to to erotetic and zetetic aspects. We are not concerned here with how accurate it is. We also have a sense of novelty, distinguishing between things we recognize and things we (at least apparently) have not previously encountered. We have a sense of progress, which tracks the apparently achieved movement associated with the zetetic aspect. We have what might be called a sense of puzzlement, which tracks the complexity of the erotetic aspect. And we have a sense of illumination where things seem in particular to be cognitively valuable. These senses are organized by a kind of taste, whether good or bad, by which we critically assess at each point what the implications of our various senses are.

So far, so good. However, there is another aspect of inquiry that is often forgotten, but is an indelible part of our experience: all inquiry is at least partly social. Even Descartes meditating in the Bavarian stove is not operating in a void. He still has the ideas he has received by his education; that, due to the method of doubt, he is not taking these ideas to tell him anything true does not erase them. (This is made clear in the Seventh Objections and Replies to the Meditations.) Even the method of doubt cannot erase the choratic framework, and no human being can possibly bootstrap inquiry into existence by inventing their own choratic framework entirely by themselves. Further, both the erotetic and epistemic aspects of the inquiry are often inherited from the inquiries of other inquirers, and we may be dependent on others for some of our means of inquiry.

Because inquiries have this social aspect, there are social 'senses' that are relevant to feeling our way through an inquiry. For instance, there is a sense of possible perspectives, of how things might look to other people. Again, we are not concerned here with the accuracy of such a sense. Rather, the point is that in inquiry, people regularly have an experience of the inquiry as involving a plurality of possible perspectives that different inquirers could take.

More than this, though, not only are all inquiries at least partly social, some inquiries are actually communal. In this kind of inquiry, it's as if the different inquirers are participating in one inquiry, but with a division of labor. In such cases, the full choratic framework may not be available to any given inquirer, but only to all of them cooperating. The means of inquiries, systems of questions, and zetetic values may also be divided up. However, there must also be some sharing of all these aspects of inquiring. This sharing occurs in multiple ways:

(1) overlap, as when inquirers each have the same piece of information or equal access to a tool;

(2) simulation, associated with our sense of possible perspectives, by which inquirers in the same inquiry try to imagine how the others would see things;

(3) communication, by which inquirers testify to what is going on with any of the aspects of the inquiry, as far as they can.

These can be found in various combinations, but (3) is the linchpin; without it, it does not seem that the inquiry could be truly communal (as opposed to two separate inquiries running parallel but in such a way as occasionally to share framework, means, or aspects). Since all of our most important inquiries are communal, communication plays a major role in the experience of inquiry. It also, however, adds a new layer of complication to inquiry; instead of merely asking questions and using means to answer them, we need to negotiate ways to cooperate, ways to stay in cooperation, ways to handle various problems that arise in the inquiry or the communication, ways to use means or divide labor effectively, and the like. Communication creates problems of communication that are solved by communication, thus greatly complicating the inquiry, but also, at times, massively increasing what it can do and what it can cover. Thus our experience of inquiry, always social, at its fullness is sociopolitical, and is structured by all the ways we experience and organize social interaction and cooperation.

Related Evening Notes posts

The Structure of Wondering
Beattie on Good Taste
Imitating Genius

Various Links of Interest

* Christoph Kelp & Mona Simon, What Is Trustworthiness?

* The Rio Negro Stream Frog has received its official scientific name: Hyloscirtus tolkieni.

* Michael S. Green, Jurisdiction and the Moral Impact Theory of Law (PDF)

* Michael Pelczar, Modal arguments against materialism (PDF)

* Matthew Cavedon, Early Stirrings of Modern Liberty in the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas (PDF)

* William Morgan, Biological Individuality and the Foetus Problem

* Philipp Kremers, Maitzen's Objection from God's Goodness (PDF)

Currently Reading

Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.1: The Doctrine of Creation
Douglas McDermid, The Rise and Fall of Scottish Common Sense Realism
Edmund Gardner, The Arthurian Legend in Italian Literature

In Audiobook:

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill

But Now They Reign O'er a Forgotten Land

 Easter Island
by Robert E. Howard 

How many weary centuries have flown ⁠
Since strange-eyed beings walked this ancient shore, ⁠
Hearing, as we, the green Pacific's roar,
Hewing fantastic gods from sullen stone!
The sands are bare; the idols stand alone.
⁠Impotent 'gainst the years was all their lore: ⁠
They are forgot in ages dim and hoar;
Yet still, as then, the long tide-surges drone. 

 What dreams had they, that shaped these uncouth things?
Before these gods what victims bled and died?
What purple galleys swept along the strand
That bore the tribute of what dim sea-kings?
But now they reign o'er a forgotten land,
Gazing forever out beyond the tide.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Gifford Lectures I Have Read

 One of the things I have long been keeping track of on this blog (since November 2004) is my project of reading the Gifford Lectures. It has been a while since I've updated this list (2019, I think), and I have definitely added a few, so here's an update.

It also gives me a chance to correct a few errors in the previous lists, although no doubt there are more. It is quite difficult to compile and keep an adequate list of Gifford Lectures. The usual lists are those of Davidson and Jaki; both are imperfect even for the time they cover, and, of course, they only do the Lectures up to the time they made their list. The Gifford Lectures website is not very conveniently organized for updating and correcting them. And in various sources, sometimes it's uncertain whether a lecturer who was appointed actually lectured, and sometimes it's uncertain whether a book they published actually gives the content of their Gifford Lectures, rather than just being a work they published after them. In addition, some lectures get published versions immediately, some slowly, some long after the death of the lecturer, which creates an additional complication. The published versions also may or may not share the same title as their lectures.

The Gifford Lectures are one of the most prestigious honors in the philosophical world. Provided for at four Scottish universities by Lord Gifford in his will after his death in 1887, they are intended to be broadly popular lectures on subjects relevant to natural theology (in the broad sense of the term) and the foundations of ethics, and lecturers can lecture on any topic of their choice as long as it has some kind of relevance to those topics. The general expectation is that the lectures will themselves serve as a foundation of a book on the same topic.

Bold indicates that I have read it; ambiguous cases (e.g., I've only read parts, or don't remember if I actually read it), I have simply not bolded. * indicates that, for whatever reason, I have it on my own shelves. A few other footnoted comments on the nature of the list are marked by other symbols. If you notice any omissions or errors, let me know; there are definitely gaps in the past decade for them all, and Edinburgh's tendency over the past years to divide up the lectures has made it exponentially more difficult to keep track. In sources, sometimes even in the same source, there is a great deal of confusion about dates for Gifford Lectures, because sometimes it is the year of appointment, sometimes the year of delivery, and sometimes the year of publication. In addition, sometimes the dates in the sources turn out to be impossible. So there still may be some date-errors lurking in all of this.

1888-1890 J. H. Stirling, Philosophy and Theology
1890-1892 G. G. Stokes, Natural Theology
1892-1893 O. Pfleiderer, Philosophy and Development of Religion
1894-1896 A. C. Fraser, Philosophy of Theism
1896-1898 C. P. Tiele, Elements of the Science of Religion, Volume I; Volume II
1900-1902 W. James, *The Varieties of Religious Experience
1903-1904 H. M. Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God and Its Historical Development
1905-1906 S. S. Laurie, On God and Man
1908-1909 R. Flint
1909-1910 W. W. Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People
1910-1912 B. Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value ; The Value and Destiny of the Individual
1913-1914 H. Bergson
1915-1916 W. M. Ramsay, Asianic Elements in Greek Civilization
1919-1921 G. F. Stout, Mind and Matter ; God and Nature#
1921-1923 A. Pringle-Pattison, The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy ; The Idea of Immortality
1926-1927 A. S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World
1927-1928 A. N. Whitehead, *Process and Reality
1928-1929 J. Dewey, The Quest for Certainty
1930-1931 N. Soderblom, *The Living God
1932-1934 E. R. Bevan, Symbolism and Belief ; Holy Images
1934-1935 A. Schweitzer, Indian Thought and Its Development
1937-1938 C. S. Sherrington, Man on His Nature
1938-1940 R. Niebuhr, *The Nature and Destiny of Man
1940-1941 O. Kraus
1947-1949 C. Dawson, Religion and Culture ; Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
1949-1950 ^N. Bohr
1950-1952 C. E. Raven, Natural Religion and Christian Theology
1952-1953 A. J. Toynbee, An Historian's Approach to Religion
1954-1955 R. Bultmann, History and Eschatology
1956-1957 A. Farrer, The Freedom of Will
1957-1959 W. Kohler
1959-1960 R. D. Maclennan
1961-1962 J. Baillie, The Sense of the Presence of God
1962-1964 D. Daube, *The Deed and the Doer in the Bible; *Law and Wisdom in the Bible
1964-1966 D. M. Mackinnon, The Problem of Metaphysics
1966-1968 H. D. Lewis, The Elusive Mind ; The Elusive Self ; Freedom and Alienation
1968-1970 W. H. F. Barnes
1970-1971 E. L. Mascall, The Openness of Being
1971-1973 PANEL (A. Kenny, H. C. Longuet-Higgins, and C. H. Waddington) The Nature of Mind ; The Development of Mind
1973-1974 O. Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind
1974-1976 S. L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God
1976-1977 J. P. Jossua, Pierre Bayle ou l'obsession du mal
1977-1979 J. C. Eccles, The Human Mystery ; The Human Psyche
1979-1980 N. R. Smart, Beyond Ideology
1980-1981 S. H. Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred
1981-1982 I. Murdoch, *Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
1982-1983 D. Daiches, God and the Poets
1983-1984 M. A. Arbib and M. Hesse, The Construction of Reality
1984-1985 J. Moltmann, God in Creation
1985-1986 P. Ricoeur, Oneself as Another
1986-1987 J. H. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion
1987-1988 A. MacIntyre, *Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry
1988-1989 R. Panikkar, The Rhythm of Being
1989-1990 M. Douglas; M. Midgley, Science as Salvation
1990-1991 J. Barr, Biblical Faith and Natural Theology
1991-1992 A. Schimmel, Deciphering the Signs of God
1992-1993 M. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought
1993-1994 J. Polkinghorne, Faith of a Physicist
1995-1996 G. A. Cohen, If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?
1996-1997 R. Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind
1997-1998 H. R. Roston III, Genes, Genesis, and God
1998-1999 C. M. Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today ; Modern Social Imaginaries ; A Secular Age
1999-2000 D. Tracy, This Side of God
2000-2001 O. O'Neill, Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics
2001-2002 M. Arkoun, The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought
2002-2003 M. Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil
2003-2004 J. W. van Huyssteen, Alone in the World?
2004-2005 @ S. Toulmin; M. Anstee; N. Chomsky, Illegal but Legitimate
2005-2006 J. B. Elshtain, *Sovereignty: God, State, and Self
2006-2007 S. Conway Morris; J. Riley-Smith
2007-2008 A. Nehamas, On Friendship; R. M. Veatch, Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics
2008-2009 D. Eck; J. Sacks
2009-2010 P. Churchland, Braintrust; M. S. Gazzaniga, Who's In Charge; T. Eagleton
2010-2011 G. Brown; P. Harrison, The Territories of Science and Religion
2011-2012 S. Sutherland; D. MacCulloch, Silence; J. Al Khalili
2012-2013 B. Latour, Facing Gaia; S. Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature; R. Williams, The Edge of Words
2013-2014 O. O'Neill; R. D. Williams; C. O'Regan
2014-2015 J. Waldron, One Another's Equals; H. Nowotny
2015-2016 K. Tanner, Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism; S. Jasanoff
2016-2017 R. English; J. Stout
2017-2018 A. Fuentes; E. H. Ecklund
2018-2019 M. Beard
2019-2020 M. Welker
2020-2021 D. N. Hempton

1888-1892 F. M. Muller, Natural Religion ; Physical Religion ; Anthropological Religion ; Theosophy or Psychological Religion
1892-1894 W. Wallace, Lectures and Essays
1894-1896 J. Caird, The Fundamental Ideas of Christianity
1897-1898 A. B. Bruce, The Providential Order of the World ; The Moral Order of the World
1900-1902 E. Caird, The Evolution of Religion ; The Evolution of Theology
1903-1905 E. Boutroux, Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy+
1907-1908 A. C. Bradley, Ideals of Religion
1910-1912 J. Watson, The Interpretation of Religious Experience
1913-1915 A. J. Balfour, Theism and Humanism
1916-1918 S. Alexander, Space, Time and Deity
1919-1921 H. Jones, A Faith that Enquires
1922-1923 A. J. Balfour, Theism and Thought
1923-1925 W. P. Paterson, The Nature of Religion
1927-1928 J. S. Haldane, The Sciences and Philosophy
1929-1931 J. A. Smith
1932-1933 W. Temple, Nature, Man and God
1935-1937 W. M. Dixon, The Human Situation
1937-1938 ^W. E. Hocking
1938-1940 J. Laird, Theism and Cosmology ; Mind and Deity
1946-1948 R. B. Perry, *Realms of Value
1949-1950 H. H. Farmer, Revelation and Religion ; Reconciliation and Religion
1952-1954 J. Macmurray, The Self as Agent ; Persons in Relations
1955-1956 L. Hodgson, For Faith and Freedom
1959-1961 C. F. Weizsacker, The Relevance of Science
1962-1963 C. W. Hendel
1965-1967 H. Butterfield
1971-1972 R. W. Southern
1974-1975 B. G. Mitchell, Morality, Religious and Secular
1979-1980 S. Brenner
1981-1982 S. Clark, From Athens to Jerusalem
1981-1982 C. J. Larner, The Thinking Peasant
1982-1983 A. J. Sanford, Models, Mind and Man
1982-1983 P. Drew
1983-1984 A. D. Galloway
1984-1985 C. Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience
1985-1986 D. M. MacKay, Behind the Eye
1986-1987 PANEL [N. Spurway, ed., Humanity, Environment, and God]
1989-1990 J. Barrow, New Theories of Everything
1990-1991 G. Steiner, Grammars of Creation
1991-1992 M. Warnock, Imagination and Time
1993-1994 J. S. K. Ward, Religion and Revelation
1995-1996 J. H. Brooke and G. Cantor, Reconstructing Nature
1997-1998 R. J. Berry, God's Book of Works
1999-2000 R. McInerny, Characters in Search of an Author
2000-2001 PANEL [A. Sanford, ed., The Nature and Limits of Human Understanding
2001-2002 L. R. Baker, The Metaphysics of Everyday Life
2002-2003 S. Blackburn, *Truth
2004-2005 L. E. Goodman, Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself; J. Hare; Abdulaziz Sachedina
2007-2008 D. Fergusson, Faith and Its Critics
2008-2009 C. Taylor
2009-2010 G. Vattimo, Of Reality
2012-2013 V. Ramachandran
2014-2015 J. Marion, *Givenness and Revelation
2015-2016 P. Schmidt-Leukel, Religious Pluralism and Interreligious Theology
2016-2017 S. Carroll, The Big Picture
2018-2019 J. Butler, The Force of Nonviolence
2019-2020 M. Pagel

1888-1890 A Lang, The Making of Religion
1890-1891 E. Caird
1894-1896 L. Campbell, Religion in Greek Literature
1899-1901 R. A. Lanciani, New Tales of Old Rome
1902-1904 R. B. Haldane, The Pathway to Reality
1907-1909 J. Ward, The Realm of Ends
1911-1913 J. G. Frazer, The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead
1914-1916 J. A. Thomson, The System of Animate Nature
1917-1919 W. R. Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus
1919-1920 L. R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality
1926-1928 A. E. Taylor, The Faith of a Moralist
1929-1930 C. Gore, The Philosophy of the Good Life
1932-1933 R. R. Marett, *Faith, Hope and Charity in Primitive Religion ; Sacraments of Simple Folk
1935-1936 H. H. Henson, Christian Morality
1936-1937 W. Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers
1937-1938 W. G. De Burgh, From Morality to Religion
1938-1939 J. Bidez, Eos
1939-1940 R. Kroner, The Primacy of Faith
1946-1948 E. Brunner, Christianity and Civilization
1948-1949 A. M. Macbeath, Experiments in Living
1949-1951 H. J. Paton, The Modern Predicament
1951-1953 B. Blanshard, Reason and Goodness ; Reason and Belief
1953-1955 C. A. Campbell, On Selfhood and Godhood
1955-1956 W. C. Heisenberg, *Physics and Philosophy
1956-1958 V. A. Demant
1958-1960 G. H. von Wright, Norm and Action
1960-1962 S. Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity
1962-1963 H. Chadwick
1964-1966 J. N. Findlay, The Discipline of the Cave ; The Transcendence of the Cave
1967-1969 R. C. Zaehner, Concordant Discord
1970-1971 W. H. Thorpe, Animal Nature and Human Nature
1972-1973 A. J. Ayer, The Central Questions of Philosophy
1975-1976 R. Hooykaas, Fact, Faith, and Fiction
1977-1978 D. Stafford-Clark
1980-1981 G. Vlastos, Socrates
1982-1983 D. G. Charlton, New Images of the Natural in France
1983-1984 J. Macquarrie, In Search of Deity
1984-1985 A. Grunbaum
1986-1987 A. Flew, The Logic of Mortality
1988-1989 W. Burkert, Creation of the Sacred
1990-1991 H. Putnam, Renewing Philosophy
1992-1993 A. Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age
1994-1995 N. Wolterstorff, Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology
1996-1997 M. Dummett, Thought and Reality
1998-1999 M. M. Adams, Christ and Horrors
2000-2001 S. M. Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe
2001-2002 P. van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil
2004-2005 A. Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies
2006-2007 M. Rees
2010-2011 R. Scruton, *The Face of God
2012-2013 D. Alexander, Genes, Determinism and God
2014-2015 L. Zagzebski, Exemplarist Moral Theory
2016-2017 M. Rea
2018-2019 M. Johnston
2021-2022 O. Donovan

1889-1891 E. B. Tylor$
1891-1892 A. M. Fairbairn, The Philosophy of the Christian Religion +
1896-1898 J. Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism
1898-1900 J. Royce, The World and the Individual
1900-1902 A. H. Sayce, The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia
1905-1906 J. Adam, The Religious Teachers of Greece
1907-1909 H. Driesch, The Science and Philosophy of Organism
1909-1910 W. Ridgeway
1911-1913 A. Pringle-Pattison
1913-1915 W. R. Sorley, *Moral Values and the Idea of God
1917-1919 C. C. Webb, God and Personality ; Divine Personality and Human Life
1921-1922 E. W. Hobson, The Domain of Natural Science
1924-1926 W. Mitchell, The Place of Minds in the World
1927-1929 E. W. Barnes, Scientific Theory and Religion
1930-1932 E. Gilson, *The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
1935-1936 W. D. Ross, Foundations of Ethics
1936-1938 K. Barth, The Knowledge of God and the Service of God according to the Teaching of the Reformation
1938/39, 1946/47 A. D. Nock
1947-1948 J. Wisdom
1948-1950 G. Marcel, The Mystery of Being
1951-1952 M. Polanyi, Personal Knowledge
1952-1954 P. Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, Vol II, Vol II
1956-1958 H. A. Hodges
1960-1962 H. H. Price, Belief
1963-1965 A. C. Hardy, The Living Stream ; The Divine Flame
1965-1966 R. Aron
1966-1968 T. M. Knox, Action ; Layman's Quest
1969-1970 A. T. van Leeuwen, Critique of Heaven ; Critique of Earth
1972-1974 H. Arendt, The Life of the Mind
1975-1977 J. Z. Young, Programs of the Brain
1979-1980 F. C. Copleston, Religion and the One
1981-1983 A. Hultkrantz
1983-1984 R. Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul
1984-1985 F. J. Dyson, Infinite in All Directions
1987-1988 A. Plantinga, Warrant: The Current Debate ; Warrant and Proper Function ; Warranted Christian Belief
1989-1990 I. G. Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science ; Ethics in an Age of Technology
1992-1993 J. Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture
1994-1995 J. Rogerson, The Bible and Criticism in Victorian Britain
1995-1996 A. Broadie, The Shadow of Scotus
1997-1998 R. Stannard, The God Experiment
2000-2001 J. S. Habgood, The Concept of Nature
2002-2003 E. Stump, Wandering in the Darkness
2003-2004 J. Haldane, Mind, Soul, and Deity
2007-2008 S. Pattison, Seeing Things
2009-2010 A. McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe
2012-2013 S. Coakley, Sacrifice Regained
2014-2015 D. Livingstone, Dealing with Darwin
2015-2016 M. Siddiqui, Struggle, Suffering, and Hope
2017-2018 D. Novak, Athens and Jerusalem
2018-2019 N. T. Wright, Discerning the Dawn
2019-2020 L. Sideris

Mildred Cranston, in her The Teleological Argument in the Gifford Lectures, argues that there's no evidence that Fairbairn's The Philosophy of the Christian Religion and Boutroux's Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy actually overlap their Gifford Lectures.
# G. F. Stout did not live to put together the second volume, God and Nature; this was done by his son, A. K. Stout. According to the latter, G. F. Stout's first volume, while based on the Gifford Lectures was heavily reworked, revised, and reorganized; thus in putting together the second volume, A. K. Stout had to do a considerable amount of editorial work in light of the original lectures, various stages of revisions of them, what had already been covered in the first volume, and his sense of his father's intention.
^ While Bohr never published a book version of his lectures, the Gifford Lectures website notes that there is a summary of them in his Collected Works, volume 10; the Gifford Lectures website also notes that a summary of Hocking's second series is published in Rouner, ed., Philosophy, Religion, and the Coming World Civilization: Essays in Honor of William Ernest Hocking.
$ Cranston notes that while Tylor never published his Lectures, they were abstracted in Balfour, et al., Anthropological Essays Presented to Edward Burnett Tylor.
@ E. Said was originally appointed, but died before he could deliver them; Toulmin, Anstee, and Chomsky instead delivered a series in memoriam.

Of course, not all of them 'stick' equally well; and there are some that I really didn't like, although perhaps a few of them would improve on second reading. Others I liked as far as they went but didn't find much in them. Some of the ones I liked quite a bit (often for very different reasons), and would recommend quite generally, are (in no particular order):

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
Nathan Soderblom, The Living God
H. D. Lewis, The Elusive Mind and The Elusive Self
Stanley Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God
Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
David Daiches, God and the Poets
Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry
Arthur Balfour, Theism and Humanism and Theism and Thought
George Steiner, Grammars of Creation
R. R. Marett, Faith, Hope, and Charity in Primitive Religion and Sacraments of Simple Folk
Warren Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy
Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
Jaroslav Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture
William Wallace, Lectures and Essays on Natural Theology and Ethics
Otto Pfleiderer, Philosophy and the Development of Religion
Brand Blanshard, Reason and Belief
T. M. Knox, A Layman's Quest
C. P. Tiele, Elements of the Science of Religion, Volume II
G. F. Stout, Mind and Nature and (with A. K. Stout) God and Nature
Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity
Marilyn McCord Adams, Christ and Horrors

Needless to say, my enjoying the lectures as interesting, substantive, and thought-provoking does not imply that I agree with everything in them. These range from fairly technical works (Pfleiderer, Blanshard, Stout, Adams) to fairly popular works (James, Balfour, Marett). They cover the ground of natural religion (or sometimes just natural-religion-ish things) from the standpoints of psychology (James), literature (Steiner, Daiches), history (Gilson, Pelikan, Runciman), metaphysics (Pfleiderer, Adams, Lewis, Knox), epistemology (Balfour, Blanshard, Stout, Knox), comparative religion and anthropology (Soderblom, Marett, Tiele), philosophy of science (Heisenberg, Jaki), and ethics (Murdoch, Wallace, MacIntyre). They are also not uniformly religious, sometimes from the nature of the topic and sometimes from the background of the lecturer; Adams, for instance, has thoroughly Anglo-Catholic lectures while Blanshard's are largely critical of all forms of Christianity. Reading these, you'd get a good selection of approaches and, in content, the best of the best, at least among those I've so far managed to read. Many of these can be found, either open or by signing up to borrow, from the Internet Archive, without which I would certainly not have been able to read more than a fraction of these.

If you prefer instead just to take a whirlwind tour, Larry Witham's The Measure of God is a reasonably decent popular survey of common themes in the Gifford Lectures, with occasional historical and biographical background for some of the best known lectures and lecturers.