College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

3: No last words: language as unfinished business

Lord Williams of Oystermouth's Gifford Lecture series is made of six lectures under the overall title ‘Making representations: religious faith and the habits of language’; the third lecture of the series is entitled 'No last words: language as unfinished business'.

Lecture abstract

Intelligent life has something to do with knowing what to do next, and how to ‘go on’. The focus of knowledge is not necessarily the would-be final, or exhaustive, system. We can learn something about the nature of knowing if we think about the sorts of knowledge involved in physical crafts, where a good and credible performance makes ever new performances possible.

This also reminds us of the significance of our having learned our language from others and of our developing our thinking through exchange and not simply soliloquy. We speak in the hope of recognition. And our language carries in it a moment of radical trust in the meaningfulness of what we ‘exchange’ as well as an awareness of how we are all answerable to what is not only the aggregate of what we all know already.

Again, the notion of ‘unconditioned intelligent energy’ comes into focus.

Lecture video