Minimalism

David Pears

  • A.J. Ayer by John Foster
    Routledge, 307 pp, £12.00, October 1985, ISBN 0 7102 0602 X
  • Voltaire by A.J. Ayer
    Weidenfeld, 182 pp, £14.95, September 1986, ISBN 0 297 78880 9
  • Fact, Science and Morality: Essays on A.J. Ayer’s ‘Language, Truth and Logic’ edited by Graham Macdonald and Crispin Wright
    Blackwell, 314 pp, £27.50, January 1987, ISBN 0 631 14555 9

Philosophy’s critics have a variety of criteria from which to choose. The first question to ask about any philosopher’s claims is whether they are true. But there are other questions which sometimes crowd this one out. Is his work accessible and persuasive? Does it touch our lives? Will it last? With so many options there is no pretending that it is obvious what counts as success. Certainly we can’t always hope to have everything now that the subject has acquired a complexity which makes it almost impossible to combine accuracy and accessibility. The technicalities of philosophy may not be as great as those of science, but they are enough to put much of what is written beyond the reach of most people. Even etnics, which touches our lives more closely than any other branch of philosophy, is now developing formidable intricacies, and in theory of knowledge, logic and metaphysics the questions themselves often need specialists to formulate them. So we look back with envy at earlier ages when the fruit that few could pick was shared and digested by many.

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