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2023-24 Gifford Lecture Series: Dr Cornel West – ‘A Jazz-soaked Philosophy for our Catastrophic Times: From Socrates to Coltrane’

Our 2023-24 Gifford Lecturer is Dr Cornel West, the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Philosophy & Christian Practice, Union Theological Seminary, New York.

In this series of lectures, Dr West will reflect on his passionate conviction that the vocation of philosophy may be, in the language of the great jazz musician, John Coltrane, a force for good in a broken world. His lectures will mobilize philosophic and artistic resources to help us make courageous, compassionate responses to our catastrophic times. His particular calling reflects his Christocentric and cruciform version of Christian life – a decolonizing and democratizing way of being wedded to the mysterious forces of kairos (disruptive hope), kinesis (holy folly of faith) and, above all, kenosis (revolutionary love). These forces – when embedded in great philosophic traditions – can sustain us in the painful but also joyful trek from womb to tomb.

Dr West received his first degree in Near Eastern languages and civilisation from Harvard University, before completing his M.A. and Ph.D in Philosophy at Princeton University. He has previously acted as Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton.

His teaching and publications focus on roles of race, gender, and class struggle in American society, synthesizing influences from Christianity, the black church, democratic socialism, left-wing populism, neopragmatism and transcendentalism.

A musician and spoken word artist, Dr West has collaborated with acts across the rap, hip-hop and funk genres, as well as appearing in the Matrix series and many documentary films.

The writer and editor of more than thirty publications, his best known works include Race Matters (1993), Democracy Matters (2004), and his memoir Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud (2009).


This year’s Gifford Lectures include:

Lecture 1, Monday 6 May: Philosophic Prelude

Lecture 2, Tuesday 7 May: Metaphilosophic Andante

Lecture 3, Thursday 9 May: Folly Presto

Lecture 4, Monday 13 May: History Adagio

Lecture 5, Tuesday 14 May: America Allegro Molto Vivace

Lecture 6, Thursday 16 May: A Love Supreme (A Way Through)


Lectures 1, 3, 4, and 6 will take place at the Informatics Forum, 10 Chrichton Street, EH8 9AB.

Lectures 2 and 5 will take place at St Cecilia’s Hall, 50 Niddry Street, EH1 1LG.

All lectures commence at 17.15. In person-tickets are now sold out, but abstracts and live-stream tickets for each lecture are still available on Eventbrite.


In addition, on Wednesday 15 May Dr West will take part in the RSE Gifford Seminar, chaired by Professor Mona Siddiqui, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-26 George Street, EH2 2PQ. While in-person tickets are sold out, you can register for the waiting list and live-stream here.



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