College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

2: Can we say what we like? Language, freedom and determinism

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 second lecture of the series is entitled 'Can we say what we like? Language, freedom and determinism'.

Lecture abstract

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.


Lecture video