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20 June 1985
Moral Relativity 
by David Wong.
California, 248 pp., £28, July 1984, 0 520 04976 4
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Beyond Subjective Morality: Ethical Reasoning and Political Philosophy 
by James Fishkin.
Yale, 201 pp., £17.50, January 1984, 0 300 03048 7
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... The creation of moral philosophy as we know it: in the beginning was A.J. Ayer, and moral assertions were without form, and void. More precisely, they were of a grammatically misleading form and lacking in meaning. In Language, Truth and Logic (published in 1936), Ayer maintained that what appears to be a moral assertion (e ...
19 March 1981
The Scientific Image 
by Bas C. Van Fraassen.
Oxford, 233 pp., £15, December 1980, 9780198244240
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... Professor Van Fraassen’s book is a recent addition to the Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy which Mr Jonathan Cohen is editing for the Oxford University Press. Its aim, as expressed in the blurb, is ‘to develop an empiricist alternative to both logical positivism and scientific realism’. In fact, Van Fraassen has very little to say about logical positivism, which he regards as philosophically outmoded, and devotes nearly all his energy to confronting scientific realism with what he calls a constructive alternative ...
22 November 1979
Hugh Gaitskell 
by Philip Williams.
Cape, 1007 pp., £15
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... If only Hugh Gaitskell had not died when he did. If only he had led the Labour Party into the General Election of 1964. He had at last succeeded in imposing his ascendency over the party – an ascendency repeatedly challenged in the eight years he had led it, all the time in opposition. Would he not have become Prime Minister with a larger majority? Would not his government have dealt more successfully with the economic troubles of the Sixties? Might he not have retained power in 1970, and so saved us from the disastrous years of the Heath government? Might we not consequently have been spared our present discontents? These are questions that I often put to myself ...
5 January 1989
... does not, however, prevent Hawking from accepting the possibility of time travel. He remarks, in a jocular aside, that it is just as well that ‘cosmic censorship’ would prevent astronauts who avoided falling into black holes from having the power to project themselves into the past. Otherwise, he says, ‘no one’s life would ever be safe: someone might ...

Out of Sight, out of Mind

Frank Kermode: A.J. Ayer’s Winning Ways

15 July 1999
A.J. AyerA Life 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 402 pp., £20, June 1999, 9780701163167
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... A.J. Ayer, says Ben Rogers, had a ‘pampered upbringing, even by Edwardian standards’. He suffered much at prep school, then went to Eton, where he suffered less and got over it. The next move, to Christ Church, was painless. Oxford gave him Gilbert Ryle as his tutor and appointed him to a lectureship before he graduated ...

Diary

A.J. Ayer: More of A.J. Ayer’s Life

22 December 1983
... On 29 October I celebrated my 73rd birthday. All in all, this has been a good year for me. A year ago I was living with my future family at Hanover, New Hampshire, as the result of being appointed a Montgomery Fellow and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth College. Mr Kenneth Montgomery, a millionaire alumnus of the college, had endowed a fellowship which made generous provision for anyone whom the college chose to appoint ...

Koestlerkampf

A.J. Ayer

20 May 1982
Koestler 
by Iain Hamilton.
Secker, 397 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 436 19191 1
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... It is not easy to see what purpose this book is meant to serve. Koestler himself has written two excellent works of autobiography, An Arrow in the Blue and The Invisible Writing, and two others, The Spanish Testament and Scum of the Earth, of which the main interest is autobiographical. Mr Hamilton admits to drawing heavily upon these works, but does no more than summarise their contents in a less forceful style than Koestler’s own ...

World Cup

A.J. Ayer

24 July 1986
... prone to make, especially when it is a matter of ruling a man offside, so often go against the player that he can hardly be blamed for taking advantage of an instance which tells in his favour. Where Maradona might be open to moral criticism is that he behaved ostentatiously as if he had scored a legitimate goal. On the whole, the conduct of the pl...

Minimalism

David Pears

19 February 1987
A.J. Ayer 
by John Foster.
Routledge, 307 pp., £12, October 1985, 9780710206022
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Voltaire 
by A.J. Ayer.
Weidenfeld, 182 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 297 78880 9
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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, 0 631 14555 9
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... or, at least, fires the imaginations, of people who have had no special training in the subject. A.J. Ayer’s first book, Language, Truth and Logic, published in 1936, achieved this effect, perhaps surprisingly, given that its main thesis was that much of what we say inside and outside philosophy is strictly meaningless. But there is pleasure in ...
15 October 1981
Hume and the Problem of Causation 
by Tom Beauchamp and Alexander Rosenberg.
Oxford, 327 pp., £15, August 1981, 0 19 520236 8
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The Science of Legislator: The Natural Jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith 
by Knud Haakonssen.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1981, 0 521 23891 9
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... On the flyleaf of Messrs Beauchamp and Rosenberg’s book about Hume’s theory of causation, Professor Donald Davidson says of it: ‘This is certainly the best available discussion of Hume and causality. It is much more than that, however: it is the best book-length treatment of causality.’ Professor Davidson is perhaps a little biased by the fact that the authors’ views on the nature of causality coincide so very closely with his own ...

What is what

A.J. Ayer

22 January 1981
Sameness and Substance 
by David Wiggins.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 631 19090 2
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... motor accident, the only relevant difference being that it lasts longer than they do and that the adjacent slices of the motor accident are more diversified. His own view is that ‘material objects and events are in some sense duals,’ and he contends that so far from its being possible to take the quality and location of an event as primitive, and treat a ...

Diary

Richard Wollheim: On A.J. Ayer

27 July 1989
... June, a television channel rang me. Would I say a few words on their news programme about Freddie Ayer? It was the first I heard of his death. Then the Independent, for which I had written an obituary a year before, asked me if I would write 600 words for their front page. Then another television channel rang. Freddie’s death was about to become, I could ...
21 January 1982
Collected Philosophical Papers. Vol. I: From Parmenides to Wittgenstein 
by G.E.M. Anscombe.
Blackwell, 141 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 631 12922 7
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Collected Philosophical Papers. Vol. II: Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind 
by G.E.M. Anscombe.
Blackwell, 239 pp., £15, September 1981, 0 631 12932 4
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Collected Philosophical Papers. Vol. III: Ethics, Religion and Politics 
by G.E.M. Anscombe.
Blackwell, 160 pp., £12, September 1981, 0 631 12942 1
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... These three volumes of Professor Anscombe’s collected papers encompass everything of importance that she has published, apart from her work as literary executor and translator of Ludwig Wittgenstein and her three books: Intention, An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus’ and Three Philosophers, written in collaboration with Professor Peter Geach, and containing studies of Aristotle, Aquinas and Frege ...

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