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John Banville: Olympic-Standard Depravity, 18 February 1999

Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind 
by David Cesarani.
Heinemann, 646 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 434 11305 0
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... his life, and which he was convinced was evidence of a reality beyond the visible world. As A.J. Ayer said of him, ‘his mind has displayed a religious rather than a scientific bent,’ while Malcolm Muggeridge felt he was ‘all antennae and no head’. The follies of his old age contributed to the posthumous eclipsing of his reputation – it is hard now ...

Blite and Whack

Paul Seabright, 19 January 1984

A Pocket Popper 
edited by David Miller.
Fontana, 479 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636414 4
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The Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery. Vol. I: Realism and the Aim of Science 
by Karl Popper, edited by W.W. Bartely.
Hutchinson, 420 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 09 151450 9
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The Philosophy of Popper 
by T.E. Burke.
Manchester, 222 pp., £16, July 1983, 0 7190 0904 9
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In Pursuit of Truth: Essays in Honour of Karl Popper’s 80th Birthday 
edited by Paul Levinson.
Harvester, 337 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7108 0424 5
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Science and Moral Priority 
by Roger Sperry.
Blackwell, 135 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 9780631131991
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Art, Science and Human Progress 
edited by R.B. McConnell.
Murray, 196 pp., £12.50, June 1983, 0 7195 4018 6
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... that based on the infinity of so-far unfalsified theories? Here the verdict must be mixed. A.J. Ayer once objected: ‘Why should a hypothesis which has failed the test be discarded unless this shows it to be unreliable: that is, except on the assumption that having failed once it is likely to fail again?’ This would smuggle in the principle of induction ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... cultural commentators – rather than media-friendly academics such as Hugh Trevor-Roper or A.J. Ayer. The very enterprise of comparative historical sociology, magnificent though it is in its tireless attempt to find pattern and explanation across societies and millennia, is bound to take an aerial view, and perhaps that, too, helped distance Gellner from ...

Child of Evangelism

James Wood, 3 October 1996

The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 297 81764 7
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Is There a God? 
by Richard Swinburne.
Oxford, 144 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 19 823544 5
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God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism 
by Anthony Freeman.
SCM, 87 pp., £5.95, September 1993, 0 344 02538 1
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Robert Runcie: The Reluctant Archbishop 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Hodder, 401 pp., £20, October 1996, 0 340 57107 1
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... through it – and there cannot be many these days – with an impression of total confusion; A.J. Ayer was ‘an engaging man ... in whose company I delighted’, but his work was unstable and confusing, and because he had a near-death experience, it is impossible to tell, says Johnson, if he died believing in God or not. But how much better, in Johnson’s ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... by Amit Chaudhuri and Romesh Gunesekera, reflections and memoirs and poems by everyone from A.J. Ayer to Fiona Pitt-Kethley. We often used to argue about Pitt-Kethley’s super-sexually frank work in the office. Karl was a believer and said something very useful about her work: ‘When people are shocked by something,’ he told me, ‘they never admit to ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... Anne’s College, Oxford, where she attended lectures by Isaiah Berlin and had classes with A.J. Ayer, Stuart Hampshire and Iris Murdoch; most fatefully, a sojourn at the Sorbonne, where, like Audrey Hepburn pixie-ing through the new philosophy of Empathicalism in Funny Face, she met – oh, enough roll call. You can read about it in Chapter 11 of Moser, or ...

Life after Life

Jonathan Rée: Collingwood, 20 January 2000

An Essay on Metaphysics 
by R.G. Collingwood, edited by Rex Martin.
Oxford, 439 pp., £48, July 1998, 0 19 823561 5
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The New Leviathan 
by R.G. Collingwood, edited by David Boucher.
Oxford, 525 pp., £17.99, March 1999, 0 19 823880 0
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The Principles of History 
by R.G. Collingwood, edited by W.H. Dray and W.J. van der Dussen.
Oxford, 293 pp., £48, March 1999, 0 19 823703 0
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... of a ‘science of pure being’ was preposterous and self-contradictory, and agreed with A.J. Ayer’s argument, in Language Truth and Logic, that so-called ‘metaphysical propositions’ are unverifiable and literally meaningless. But Ayer’s inference that metaphysics should be ‘eliminated’ and replaced with ...

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