The McCosh Lecture
Image credit: James McCosh, ca. 1870s. Box AD013, Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University; published by Princeton University Archives.
This Lecture, originally the Annual Religious Studies Lecture, is named in honour of James McCosh (1811-1894) who was appointed to the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at Queen’s University in 1850 shortly after the establishment of the University.
In 1868 McCosh left Ireland to become President of Princeton University. His sphere of influence was extensive, not only as a leading moral philosopher and educationalist, but as a pioneer of modern psychology and as a prominent advocate for the reconciliation of evolution and religion.
Reflecting McCosh’s wide interests, the Lecture, delivered annually at Queen’s University Belfast, is in the field of Religious Studies broadly conceived. Previous lecturers include philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale University); historian Mark Noll (University of Notre Dame); climate scientist Mike Hulme (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, University of East Anglia); literary theorist Terry Eagleton (Universities of Lancaster, Galway and Notre Dame); Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies (University of Edinburgh); American novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson; the public commentator on comparative religion, Karen Armstrong; the religious historian and Vice-President of the British Academy, Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch; Baroness Onora O’Neill, FBA, FRS, FMedSci, philosopher and former President of the British Academy and David Hempton (Dean Harvard Divinity School).
The McCosh Lecture for 2023 was given by David Livingstone, emeritus Professor of Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen’s University Belfast, on the subject ‘James McCosh and the Idea of a University ’. The lecture was held on 17 May 2023 in the Council Chamber, Lanyon building. The event was opened by Dr Andrew Holmes, Chair of the Forum, and introduced by Professor Ian Greer, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast.
The McCosh Lecture for 2022 was given by Colin Kidd, Wardlaw Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and a Fellow of All Souls College at the University of Oxford, on the subject ‘Modern Paganism Revisted: Religion and the English Enlightenment’. The lecture was held on 25 May 2022 in the Council Chamber, Lanyon building. The event was opened by Dr Andrew Holmes, Chair of the Forum and introduced by Professor Nola Hewitt-Dundas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, QUB.
The McCosh Lecture for 2021 was given by Sarah Coakley, Honorary Fellow of Oriel College Oxford, on the subject of "Racism, Sin and the Distortion of Perception: can Contemplation heal the Racist Gaze?". The lecuture was broadcsat on MS Teams Live Events on Wednesday 5 May 2021. Professor Coakley was until recently, the Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and formerly Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity at Harvard University.
The McCosh Lecture 2020 was given by David Hempton, Dean, Harvard Divinity School, on the subject of "Networks, Nodes and Nuclei: Towards a New Theory of Religious Change". This lecture was broadcast as a podcast on Friday 18 September at 5.00 pm. This lecture was in partnership with the British Academy and Harvard Divinity School.
The McCosh Lecture 2019 was given by Onora O'Neill, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, and Former President of the British Academy on the subject of 'What Ought We Do?'. The lecture was held on Friday 10 May 2019 at 2.00 pm in the Great Hall (Lanyon Building). The event was opened by Professor David Livingstone, Chair of the Forum and introducted by Professor Richard English, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation and Engagement, QUB.
The McCosh Lecture 2018 was given by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford and Vice-President, British Academy on the subject of 'Christianity: Pasts, Present and Futures'. The lecture was held on Wednesday 18 April at 2.00 pm in The Harty Room. The event was opened by Professor David Livingstone, Chair of the Forum and introduced by Professor Richard English, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation and Engagement, QUB.
The McCosh Lecture 2017 was given by the writer and commentator on religion, Karen Armstrong on the subject of 'Is religion really violent?'. The lecture was held on Wednesday 3 May at 2.00 pm in the Great Hall (Lanyon Building). The event was opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston and introduced by the Director of the Institute of Theology, Joan Rahilly.
The McCosh Lecture 2016 was given by the American novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson on the subject of 'Religion and Literature'. The lecture was held on Wednesday, 20 April 2016 at 2.00 p.m. in the Whitla Hall. The event was opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston and introduced by the Director of the Institute of Theology, Joan Rahilly. Marilynne Robinson was interviewed afterwards by the BBC broadcaster, William Crawley.
Mona Siddiqui, OBE, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, University of Edinburgh, delivered The McCosh Lecture 2015 on the subject of 'Between Halal and Hijab: Ideals and Realities of Islamic Law in Europe' on Wednesday, 29 April 2015, in the Canada Room, Lanyon Building, QUB. The event was opened by Professor Tony Gallagher and Professor Siddiqui's lecture was responded to by Colin Harvey (Professor of Human Rights Law, QUB).
Professor Terry Eagleton, Literary Critic, Cultural Theorist and Distinguished Professor in English Literature, University of Lancaster, delivered the Annual Religious Studies Lecture 2014 on the subject of: "Was Jesus a Revolutionary?". The lecture was held on Wednesday, 4 June 2014, in the Canada Room, Lanyon Building, QUB. Professor Eagleton's lecture was responded to by Richard English (Wardlaw Professor of Politics, University of St Andrews) and Dr Diarmid Finnegan (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, QUB).
The 2013 Annual Lecture was given by Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change (University of East Anglia). The lecture was entitled 'Climate Change and Virtue: An Apologetic'. Professor Hulme argued that climate change is showing us not only the extent of human influence on the planet, but also the limits of programmatic management of this influence through political, economic, technological and social engineering. He went on to propose a different, non-programmatic response to the challenges of climate change – a return to the ancient and religious idea of virtue. The event was opened by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor James McElnay, and after the lecture a round table discussion was held with Professor John Brewer, Dr John Barry, and Professor David Livingstone, Chair of the Forum.
The guest speaker at this year's Religious Studies Lecture was Professor Mark Noll, Francis McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. A member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of the United States National Humanities Medal, Professor Noll gave a lecture on the subject 'The Bible, Race and Slavery as an Enduring American Problem'.
The symposium was opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson, and after the lecture responses were given by Professor Colin Kidd from the School of History and Anthropology and Professor David Livingstone, Chair of the Religious Studies Research Forum Steering Group.
The guest speaker was philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale). Professor Wolterstorff gave a lecture on the subject 'Why Justice and Rights Matter'. Professor John Brewer (University of Aberdeen, Professor Stephen Williams (Union Theological College) and Professor Shane O'Neill (QUB) acted as discussants. The Chair was Professor David Livingstone, Director of the Research Forum.