Jazz-soaked philosophy in our catastrophic times: from Socrates to Coltrane

Join American philosopher, theologian, activist, and public intellectual Professor Cornel West for the RSE’s annual Gifford seminar.

“These lectures reflect my 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.”

Cornel West

How do we emerge from the bleakness of our catastrophic times?

At this year’s RSE Gifford Seminar, Professor Cornel West, distinguished American philosopher, theologian, activist, and public intellectual, considers the philosophical and artistic resources at our disposal to help us shape courageous, compassionate responses and find ways of moving forward. The seminar allows audience members to explore with Professor West some of the larger questions and issues raised in his Gifford Lecture Series – ‘A Jazz-soaked Philosophy for our Catastrophic Times: from Socrates to Coltrane.’ It is an opportunity to join in a conversation about the topics of Professor West’s lectures, and hear a variety of voices and perspectives.

As the University of Edinburgh Gifford Lecturer for 2023-24, Professor West will give six public lectures between 6 and 16 May. In these lectures, he will explore how the forces of kairos (disruptive hope), kinesis (the holy folly of faith) and, above all, kenosis (revolutionary love), when embedded into philosophic traditions, can “sustain us in the painful but also joyful trek from womb to tomb.”

About the Gifford seminar

The RSE and the University of Edinburgh unite annually to present the RSE Gifford Seminar, providing a unique overview of the Gifford Lecture Series for the year. This seminar is not another lecture but an interactive session where you can engage with the speaker on their series, fostering fresh thinking, connections, and exchanges. The Gifford Lectures were established in 1887 under the will of Adam, Lord Gifford, a judge of the Court of Session and a man of broad interests and compassion. Gifford Lectures are held at each of the four ancient Scottish universities. For over a century, the lectures have enabled an eminent field of scholars to advance philosophical and scientific thought.