James Hutchison Stirling

Writer, Philosopher, and Physician

Philosophy and Theology

In the first Gifford Lectures to be delivered at the University of Edinburgh, Stirling discusses the following two questions: What is Natural Theology? Are there proofs of God’s existence? He traces ‘arguments from Design’, referencing Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, various Christian and Eastern philosophers from the Middle Ages, and the writings of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Charles Darwin. Stirling argues that the ‘order’ we find in nature implies a designing mind.


James Hutchison Stirling was born on 22 June 1820 in Glasgow, Scotland. He never achieved the great distinction in philosophy he hoped for, owing to his often obscure and difficult prose. Stirling graduated from the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1842 and was an assistant practitioner at Hirwaun Ironworks, eventually becoming their sole surgeon. Appointed as the first Gifford Lecturer in 1889, he was awarded honorary law degrees by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1867 and 1901.

A foreign member of the Philosophical Society of Berlin throughout his life, he was twice nominated unsuccessfully for moral philosophy chairs in Britain. Stirling’s major works include The Secret of Hegel (1865), Sir William Hamilton: Being the Philosophy of Perception (1865), Text-book to Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason (1868), As Regards Protoplasm in Relation to Professor Huxley’s Essay on the Physical Basis of Life (1872), Darwinianism: Workmen and Work (1894), and What Is Thought? Or The Problem of Philosophy by Way of a General Conclusion So Far (1900).

Published/Archival Resources
Published as Philosophy and Theology.