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By A. Phillips Griffiths

A. J. Ayer, who died in 1989, used to be said as one among Britain's such a lot special philosophers. during this memorial choice of essays prime Western philosophers ponder Ayer's position within the background of philosophy and discover elements of his idea and instructing. the quantity additionally encompasses a posthumous essay by way of Ayer himself: "A Defence of Empiricism." those essays are surely a becoming tribute to an immense determine, however the assortment isn't really easily retrospective; really it seems ahead to give and destiny advancements in philosophical notion that Ayer's paintings has influenced.

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Extra info for A. J. Ayer: Memorial Essays (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements (No. 30))

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In the first place they weren't chance students. They were a remarkable group of people, older for the war, mostly (as I recall) magnetized out of the psychology department by the powerfully attractive figure of Freddie. When I arrived in the department in 1949 the ablest of them was James Thomson. Thomson was one of the three or four cleverest people I have ever known. A rear-gunner in Bomber Command during the War, Thomson had read the Critique of Pure Reason as he sat with his knees hunched up by his chin, high above the German heartland.

The idea that logic and mathematics are useful because we, as finite intelligences, cannot trace all the implications of our thoughts was, as a footnote shows, derived from Hans Hahn's Logik, Mathematik and Naturerkennen of 1933. Ayer's refutation of Mill's account of mathematical truths as empirical generalizations of the widest possible scope was not dependent on Frege, whom, by 1936, he does not appear to have encountered. He unfortunately ascribes to Mill the view that the truths of logic, as well as those of mathematics, are empirical, fixing that mistake firmly in the heads of several generations of students.

It was only by some sort of accident, to which he felt it unnecessary to accommodate, that he was a philosopher at London. Freddie loved his department. It made him very happy. I suspect that for the first time he could put behind him the very real wounds inflicted on his pride at Eton, at Christ Church, in the Welsh Guards. He realized that it was only a place like University College that could allow him to do what he wanted, just as it allowed his other clever 27 Richard Wollheim remarkable friends to do what they wanted: John Young, Lionel Penrose, Bill Coldstream.

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