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Encyclopedia > Alfred Ayer
Western Philosophy
20th-century philosophy
Name: Alfred Jules Ayer
Birth: October 29, 1910
Death: June 27, 1989
School/tradition: Analytic
Main interests: Language, Epistemology, Ethics, Meaning
Notable ideas: Logical positivism, verification principle, emotivist ethics
Influences: Hume, Vienna Circle, Popper, Russell, Wittgenstein, Kant
Influenced: R. M. Hare, Strawson, Honderich
"Ayer" redirects here. For other meanings, see Ayer (disambiguation).

Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (October 29, 1910June 27, 1989), better known as A. J. Ayer (or Freddie by his friends[1]), was a British philosopher known for his promotion of logical positivism, particularly in his books Language, Truth and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956). The 20th century brought with it upheavals that produced a series of conflicting developments within philosophy over the basis of knowledge and the validity of various absolutes. ... October 29 is the 302nd day of the year (303rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1910 (MCMX) was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... June 27 is the 178th day of the year (179th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 187 days remaining. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Analytic philosophy is the dominant philosophical movement in University philosophy departments in English-speaking countries and in Scandinavia, although one of its founders, Gottlob Frege, was German, and many of its leading proponents, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Karl Popper, Hans Reichenbach, Herbert Feigl, Otto Neurath... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Ethics (from the Ancient Greek ethikos, meaning arising from habit), a major branch of philosophy, is the study of value or quality. ... In linguistics, meaning is the content carried by the words or signs exchanged by people when communicating through language. ... Logical positivism (later referred to as logical empiricism, rational empiricism, or neo-positivism) is a school of philosophy that combines positivism—which states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge—with a version of apriorism—the notion that some propositional knowledge can be had without, or prior to, experience. ... In the early twentieth century, the logical positivists put forth what came to be known as the verifiability theory of meaning. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into cognitivism (ethics). ... David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. ... Moritz Schlick around 1930 The Vienna Circle (in German: der Wiener Kreis) was a group of philosophers who gathered around Moritz Schlick when he was called to the Vienna University in 1922, organized in a philosophical association named Verein Ernst Mach (Ernst Mach Society). ... Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH, MA, Ph. ... Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell OM FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, and mathematician. ... Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (IPA: ) (April 26, 1889 – April 29, 1951) was an Austrian philosopher who contributed several ground-breaking works to contemporary philosophy, primarily on the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. ... Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804), was a German philosopher from Königsberg in East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). ... R.M. Hare Richard Mervyn Hare (March 21, 1919 – January 29, 2002) was an English moral philosopher, who held the post of Whites Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford from 1966 until 1983. ... Peter Frederick Strawson (born November 23, 1919 in London) is a philosopher associated with the ordinary language philosophy movement within analytical philosophy. ... Ted Honderich (born 1933) is Emeritus Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London. ... Ayer is a surname, and may refer to: Alfred Ayer, British philosopher Claire D. Ayer, Vermont politician David Ayer, American screenwriter Francis Ayer, American advertising businessman Lewis Malone Ayer, Jr. ... October 29 is the 302nd day of the year (303rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1910 (MCMX) was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... June 27 is the 178th day of the year (179th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 187 days remaining. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Logical positivism (later referred to as logical empiricism, rational empiricism, or neo-positivism) is a school of philosophy that combines positivism—which states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge—with a version of apriorism—the notion that some propositional knowledge can be had without, or prior to, experience. ... The cover of a 1952 version of Language, Truth and Logic Language, Truth and Logic, a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936) defines, explains and argues for the verification principle of logical positivism, sometimes referred to as the criterion of significance or criterion of meaning. The...


Ayer was the Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at the University College London from 1946 until 1959, when he became Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1951 to 1952. He was knighted in 1970. University College London, commonly known as UCL, or simply UC is one of the colleges that makes up the University of London. ... The University of Oxford has three statutory professorships named after William of Wykeham. ... The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford, England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. ... The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy (more generally known as the Aristotelian Society) was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880[1] which resolved to constitute a society of about twenty and to include ladies; the society to meet fortnightly, on Mondays at 8 oclock...

Contents

Life

Ayer received an education in the humanities at Eton College, and served in the British military during World War II, working in military intelligence for a time. He was a noted social mixer and womanizer, and was married four times, including to Dee Wells and Vanessa Lawson. Reputedly he liked dancing and attending the clubs in London. He was a keen supporter of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and was a well known face in the crowd, known to other fans as 'the prof' [citation needed]. The Kings College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor, commonly known as Eton College or just Eton, is an internationally renowned public school (privately funded and independent) for male students, founded in 1440 by Henry VI. It is located in Eton, Berkshire, near Windsor in England, situated north... Combatants Major Allied powers: United Kingdom France Soviet Union United States Republic of China and others Major Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Winston Churchill Charles de Gaulle Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Chiang Kai-Shek Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tojo Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian... This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ...


He was a friend of Isaiah Berlin and Stuart Hampshire. Sir Isaiah Berlin, OM, (June 6, 1909 – November 5, 1997) was a political philosopher and historian of ideas, regarded as one of the leading liberal thinkers of the 20th century. ... Sir Stuart Newton Hampshire (October 1, 1914 - June 13, 2004) was an Oxford University philosopher, literary critic and university administrator. ...


Ayer was an avowed atheist,[2] and followed in the footsteps of Bertrand Russell by debating with the Jesuit scholar Frederick Copleston on the topic of religion. Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell OM FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, and mathematician. ... Frederick Charles Copleston, (April 10, 1907, Taunton, Somerset, England – February 3, 1994, London, England) was a Jesuit priest and writer on philosophy. ...


Ayer was closely associated with the British humanist movement. He was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association from 1947 until his death. In 1965, he became the first president of the Agnostics' Adoption Society and in the same year succeeded Julian Huxley as president of the British Humanist Association, a post he held until 1970. In 1968 he edited The Humanist Outlook, a collection of essays on the meaning of humanism. Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice and specifically rejects rituals and ceremonies as a means to affirm a life stance. ... The Rationalist Press Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom, founded on 26 May 1899 to promote freedom of thought and inquiry and the principles of rationalism, defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a system of philosophy and ethics... Sir Julian Sorell Huxley, FRS (June 22, 1887 – February 14, 1975) was a English biologist, author, Humanist and internationalist, known for his popularisations of science in books and lectures. ... The British Humanist Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom which promotes Humanism. ...


He taught or lectured several times in the United States, including serving as a visiting professor at Bard College in the fall of 1987. At a party that same year held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson harassing Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: "Do you know who the fuck I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world," to which Ayer replied: "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men".[3] Ayer and Tyson then began to talk, while Naomi Campbell slipped out. For other meanings of the word Bard, see Bard (disambiguation). ... Fernando Sanchez (born 1934) is a Spanish fashion designer. ... Michael Gerard Tyson (new name: Abdul Aziz), born on June 30, 1966, in Brooklyn, New York, (USA) is a semi-retired professional boxer and former World Heavyweight Champion. ... Naomi Campbell (born 22nd May 1970) is an iconic English supermodel and sometime actress, singer and author. ... The University of Oxford has three statutory professorships named after William of Wykeham. ...


Shortly before his death in 1989 he received publicity after having an unusual near-death experience, which has often been misinterpreted as a move away from his lifelong and famous religious skepticism. Of the experience, Ayer first said that it "slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death ... will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be."[4] However, a few days later he revised this, saying "what I should have said is that my experiences have weakened, not my belief that there is no life after death, but my inflexible attitude towards that belief".[5] Ascent in the Empyrean (Hieronymous Bosch) A near-death experience (NDE) is an experience reported by a person who nearly died or who was clinically dead and revived. ... Religious skepticism is a type of skepticism relating to religion, but should not be confused with atheism. ...


Works

Ayer is perhaps best known for his verification principle, as presented in Language, Truth, and Logic (1936), according to which a sentence is meaningful only if it has verifiable empirical import, otherwise it was either "analytical" if tautologous or "metaphysical" (i.e. meaningless) if neither empirical nor analytical. He started work on the book at the age of 23 and it was published when he was 26. Ayer's philosophical ideas were deeply influenced by those of the Vienna Circle and David Hume. His clear, vibrant and polemical exposition of them makes Language, Truth and Logic essential reading on the tenets of logical positivism -- the book is regarded as a classic of 20th century analytic philosophy, and is widely read in philosophy courses around the world. In the early twentieth century, the logical positivists put forth what came to be known as the verifiability theory of meaning. ... The cover of a 1952 version of Language, Truth and Logic Language, Truth and Logic, a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936) defines, explains and argues for the verification principle of logical positivism, sometimes referred to as the criterion of significance or criterion of meaning. The... Empirical is an adjective often used in conjunction with science, both the natural and social sciences, which means an observation or experiment based upon experience that is capable of being verified or disproved. ... Within the study of logic, a tautology is a statement containing more than one sub-statement, that is true regardless of the truth values of its parts. ... Moritz Schlick around 1930 The Vienna Circle (in German: der Wiener Kreis) was a group of philosophers who gathered around Moritz Schlick when he was called to the Vienna University in 1922, organized in a philosophical association named Verein Ernst Mach (Ernst Mach Society). ... David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. ... The cover of a 1952 version of Language, Truth and Logic Language, Truth and Logic, a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936) defines, explains and argues for the verification principle of logical positivism, sometimes referred to as the criterion of significance or criterion of meaning. The... Logical positivism (later referred to as logical empiricism, rational empiricism, or neo-positivism) is a school of philosophy that combines positivism—which states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge—with a version of apriorism—the notion that some propositional knowledge can be had without, or prior to, experience. ... Analytic philosophy is the dominant philosophical movement in University philosophy departments in English-speaking countries and in Scandinavia, although one of its founders, Gottlob Frege, was German, and many of its leading proponents, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Karl Popper, Hans Reichenbach, Herbert Feigl, Otto Neurath...


In some ways, Ayer was the philosophical successor to Bertrand Russell, and he wrote two books on the philosopher: Russell and Moore: The Analytic Heritage (1971) and Russell (1972). He also wrote an introductory book on the philosophy of David Hume. Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell OM FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, and mathematician. ...


In 1972-73 Ayer gave the Gifford Lectures at University of St Andrews, later published as The Central Questions of Philosophy. He still believed in the viewpoint he shared with the logical positivists: that large parts of what was traditionally called "philosophy" - including the whole of metaphysics, theology and aesthetics - were not matters that could be judged as being true or false and that it was thus meaningless to discuss them. Unsurprisingly, this made him unpopular with several other philosophy departments in this country and his name is still reviled by many British professors to this day. The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford (d. ... St Marys College Bute Medical School Postgraduate Students Affiliations 1994 Group Website www. ... Plato and Aristotle (right), by Raphael (Stanza della Segnatura, Rome). ... Theology (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογια, logia, words, sayings, or discourse) is reasoned discourse concerning religion, spirituality and gods. ... The Parthenons facade showing an interpretation of golden rectangles in its proportions. ...


In "The Concept of a Person and Other Essays" (1963), Ayer made several striking criticisms of Wittgenstein's private language theory. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), pictured here in 1930, made influential contributions to Logic and the philosophy of language, critically examining the task of conventional philosophy and its relation to the nature of language. ...


Ayer's sense-data theory in Foundations of Empirical Knowledge was famously criticised by fellow Oxonian J. L. Austin in Sense and Sensibilia, a landmark 1950s work of common language philosophy. Ayer responded to this in the essay "Has Austin Refuted the Sense-data Theory?", which can be found in his Metaphysics and Common Sense (1969). John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 - February 8, 1960) was a philosopher of language, who developed much of the current theory of speech acts. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


See also

The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish between two different types of propositional knowledge. ...

References

  • Rogers, Ben A.J. Ayer: A Life, Grove Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8021-1673-6 (Chapter one and a review by Hilary Spurling, New York Times, December 24, 2000.)

The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ...

Notes

  1. ^ See, e.g., UCL Philosophy: Former Students (accessed December 31, 2006).
  2. ^ Ayer believed that religious language was unverifiable and as such literally nonsense. Consequently "There is no God" was for Ayer as meaningless and metaphysical an utterance as "God exists." Though Ayer could not give assent to the declaration "There is no God," he was an atheist in the sense that he withheld assent from affirmation's of God's existence. That stance of a person who believes "God" denotes no verifiable hypothesis is sometimes referred to as igtheism (defined in Paul Kurtz, The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge, ISBN 0-87975-766-3, page 194)
  3. ^ Rogers (1999), page 344.
  4. ^ http://www.near-death.com/experiences/atheists01.html
  5. ^ http://edge.org/3rd_culture/dennett06/dennett06_index.html

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Paul Kurtz (born February 12, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), but is best known for prominent role in the American skeptical community. ...

Further reading

Ted Honderich (born 1933) is Emeritus Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London. ... --72. ... The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (hereafter SEP) is a free online encyclopedia of philosophy run and maintained by Stanford University. ...

Selected publications

  • 1936, Language, Truth, and Logic, London: Gollancz. (2nd edition, 1946.)
  • 1940, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, London: Macmillan.
  • 1954, Philosophical Essays, London: Macmillan. (Essays on freedom, phenomenalism, basic propositions, utilitarianism, other minds, the past, ontology.)
  • 1957, “The conception of probability as a logical relation”, in S. Korner, ed., Observation and Interpretation in the Philosophy of Physics, New York, N.Y.: Dover Publications.
  • 1956, The Problem of Knowledge, London: Macmillan.
  • 1963, The Concept of a Person and Other Essays, London: Macmillan. (Essays on truth, privacy and private languages, laws of nature, the concept of a person, probability.)
  • 1967, “Has Austin Refuted the Sense-Data Theory?” Synthese vol. XVIII, pp. 117-40. (Reprinted in Ayer 1969).
  • 1968, The Origins of Pragmatism, London: Macmillan.
  • 1969, Metaphysics and Common Sense, London: Macmillan. (Essays on knowledge, man as a subject for science, chance, philosophy and politics, existentialism, metaphysics, and a reply to Austin on sense-data theory [Ayer 1967].)
  • 1971, Russell and Moore: The Analytical Heritage, London: Macmillan.
  • 1972a, Probability and Evidence, London: Macmillan.
  • 1972b, Bertrand Russell, London: Fontana.
  • 1973, The Central Questions of Philosophy, London: Weidenfeld.
  • 1979, “Replies”, in G. Macdonald, ed., Perception and Identity: Essays Presented to A. J. Ayer, With His Replies, London: Macmillan; Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
  • 1980, Hume, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • 1982, Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, London: Weidenfeld.
  • 1984, Freedom and Morality and Other Essays, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • 1986, Ludwig Wittgenstein, London: Penguin.
  • 1977, Part of My Life, London: Collins.
  • 1984, More of My Life, London: Collins.

The cover of a 1952 version of Language, Truth and Logic Language, Truth and Logic, a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936) defines, explains and argues for the verification principle of logical positivism, sometimes referred to as the criterion of significance or criterion of meaning. The...

External links

  • Ayer's Elizabeth Rathbone Lecture on Philosophy & Politics
  • A. J. Ayer at Philosophry

  Results from FactBites:
 
Logical positivism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3919 words)
A.J. Ayer is considered responsible for the spread of logical positivism to Britain.
The Polish logician Alfred Tarski, who developed the theory of semantics in formal language, took part in the congresses on scientific philosophy organized by the Vienna and Berlin Circles; he greatly influenced Carnap's philosophy of language.
After establishing this distinction, Ayer goes on to claim that "no proposition, other than a tautology, can possibly be anything more than a probable hypothesis" (Ayer 1946:51), and therefore can only be subject to weak verification.
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