The Easter before leaving Eton Ayer spent some time in Paris, where hemet Renee Lees, whom he subsequently married (in 1933). The followingyear (1929) he won a classics scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford,where he studied both Greek and philosophy, one of his tutors beingGilbert Ryle. It was Ryle who suggested that Ayer read Wittgenstein'sTractatus, a work that immediately impressed him. Ryle wasalso instrumental in getting Ayer to go to Vienna in 1933 to studywith Moritz Schlick, then leader of the Vienna Circle, joining Quinein being one of only two visitors to be members of the ViennaCircle. His philosophical experience in Vienna was somewhat limited byhis uncertain knowledge of German, but he knew enough to pick up thebasic tenets of logical positivism.
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In the following rather ample bibliography I have tried to assemble not only references to those materials actually discussed or quoted in my essay, but also a great deal of what seemed to me of systematic significance for future philosophical work in the area.
With the appalling volume of philosophical writings in recent decades, many a valuable book or article becomes all too soon forgotten, and many go entirely unnoticed.
He was also an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur.Contributions to PhilosophyAyer's books include: (Contribution), 1967; (editor with Raymond Winch), (1952); (1973); (1963); (1940); (1984); (1980); (1956); (editor), (1960); (1970); (1968); (1954); (1982); (1972); (1956); (Contribution), (1956); and (1971). is one of Ayer's most important books and may be considered as one of the most influential philosophical works of the 20th century.
- when arrives, finds department of philosophy occupying 2 rooms in a section of the University that had been bombed during war. About 6 undergraduates, no graduate students, 2 teachers (one of whom was the secretary who had been made a temporary teacher), no telephone.
In common with many other philosophers I used to hold that it was not, that in this respect the antithesis between the claims of free will and determinism was illusory, but in so far as this is a question of what people actually believe, I now think it more likely that I was wrong.
1946: Inadvertently insults Wittgenstein by statement made during a broadcast on contemporary British philosophy. Their relationship never recovers, though Ayer tries to apologize.
Hume was an influential figure in the formation of Ayer'sphilosophical views, so it is no surprise to find Ayer's approach toinductive inference modeled on that of Hume. Ayer defined inductiveinference in negative terms, as involving all factual inference inwhich the premises did not entail the conclusion. All such inferences,Ayer claimed, presumed the uniformity of nature, an assumption he putin terms of assuming that the future will, in relevant respects,resemble the past (1956, p. 72). To unambiguously cover cases ofretrodiction, the assumption is better put in terms of the unobservedresembling, in relevant respects, the observed. Ayer agreed with Humethat relying on any ‘principle’ of the uniformity ofnature was not going to help justify inductive inference, given thatsuch a principle was itself not demonstrable. A similar argumentapplied to any other principles that may have been thought to supplythe missing ingredient, such as an appeal to universal causality, orto laws of nature. These were also not demonstrably true, so wouldrequire justification themselves, and any appeal to these principlesin such a justification would be viciously circular.
p.221-223)A philosophical question which I have not here discussed, partly because I do not think that I have anything new to say about it, is whether the denial of determinism is implied in our usual ascriptions of moral and legal responsibility.
- notes change in atmosphere, new trends in philosophy. Ayers ideas, once revolutionary, now "old fashioned." John Austins linguistic philosophy dominant, becomes the "school" with which Oxford principally associated at that period by 50s. Austin antagonistic toward Ayer, who is skeptical about Austins work. But overall, Ayer notes that the analytic movement "in one form or another" now has taken control of English scene (, 296).
It is an argument that has run, more particularly, through thatlarge part of philosophy that has to do with the question of thenatureof the reality of which we have experience -- as distinct fromanyreality that is a matter of only theory.
The dispute between philosophical idealism andrealism -- about whether, as idealism supposes, everything that existsisin some sense mental or spiritual -- is not approached with theVerificationPrinciple in hand.