Talk:A. J. Ayer

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Can someone get a source for the Mike Tyson anecdote? --LostLeviathan 02:57, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Is there some reason (other than neglect) why Gully Wells' book, The House in France, is not included in Further Reading? It surely qualifies as a resource of interest to those wishing to know more about Ayer. From Amazon's product description: "Set in Provence, London, and New York, this is a daughter’s brilliant and witty memoir of her mother and stepfather—Dee Wells, the glamorous and rebellious American journalist, and A. J. Ayer, the celebrated and worldly Oxford philosopher—and the life they lived at the center of absolutely everything. Gully Wells takes us into the heart of London’s lively, liberated intellectual inner circle of the 1960s. Here are Alan Bennett, Isaiah Berlin, Iris Murdoch, Bertrand Russell, Jonathan Miller, Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens, Robert Kennedy, and Claus von Bülow, and later in New York a completely different mix: Mayor John Lindsay, Mike Tyson, and lingerie king Fernando Sánchez." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:24, 15 December 2015 (UTC)


We have a reference for the Tyson quote that just says "Rogers, 344." Could someone add a proper citation for this, please? SlimVirgin (talk) 19:52, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

See the further reading section: Ben Rogers, A.J. Ayer: A Life, Grove Press, 2001 Gamaliel 19:55, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
If it's a source, it should go in a references section, so I'll add it there. Why are you deleting the New York Times link, and why do you feel the need to add the word "fuck"? SlimVirgin (talk) 19:58, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
I can find a hardcover from 2000 and a paperback from 2002, but nothing from 2001. I've added 2000 as the publication date and the ISBN for that edition, but the page # may not be correct now. Can you check which edition you used? SlimVirgin (talk) 20:06, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
I added the word fuck because that's the exact quote from the original text which the newspaper is (incompletely) quoting. I removed the New York Times link because 1) now we have the original source the times is quoting and 2) so people don't put back the old inaccurate quote thinking the Times is correct. The book I have says 1999, ISBN 0802116736. Gamaliel 20:26, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
I don't agree with having that word in the intro, because it seems childish. As for "At a party that same year held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson harassing Naomi Campbell ...," I'm familiar with the story, and I know that Ayer went to see what was happening, but the sentence as it stands is poor English. He confronted X, who was harassing ... or He confronted X while he was harassing ... Or he encountered/discovered X harassing. But not "he confronted X harassing." SlimVirgin (talk) 20:38, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
I hope you don't think my interest in this is to force "childish" profanity into the intro of an article; I'm only interested in insuring that a quote is complete and accurate as per the original source. In fact, upon reflection, the story doesn't belong in the intro at all and I'm not sure how it ended up there. As far as the sentence construction, I disagree, but I'm open to another version that doesn't incorrectly imply that it was a chance encounter. Gamaliel 20:46, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
I disagree. I think it's a great story for the intro, and I'm going to restore it, though not today because there has been too much reverting already. It's common for publications to use an ellipsis instead of a curse word, and common in general for quotations to be edited for any number of reasons. Also, the current construction doesn't imply it was a chance encounter. As I remember the story, Ayer heard screams coming from a bedroom and went to look. There he encountered/discovered/saw/found/Tyson harassing Campbell. Also, Rogers is not the original source. This is a very well-known story about Ayer. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:03, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
I don't think it's intro material, but I don't object to putting it back in the intro at this point. I do object to sanitizing the quote, and its location in the article is not sufficient reason to do so. Wikipedia:Profanity: "obscene words should never be bowdlerized by replacing letters in the word with dashes, asterisks, or other symbols." Gamaliel 21:19, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
This is an interesting anecdote about Ayer (and I've confirmed it in Rogers) but its definitely not intro material. Palthrow
I think that story should stay put. Ayer was more than just an academic philosopher and that story, I think, gives the reader some insight into his personality and character. He was the sort of guy who could be found in fashionable nightspots, of the sort, where people like Mike Tyson and Namomi Campbell might turn up. He was the kind of guy who go up to a Mike Tyson and remonstrate with him and get away with it. That says something about the man's character. Jim F.

Biased phrasing[edit]

I think this phrasing is a little biased:

Ayer's philosophical ideas were largely parasitic on those of the Vienna Circle. However, his clear, vibrant and (arguably) arrogant exposition of them makes Language, Truth and Logic essential reading on the tenets of logical positivism -- the book is a classic, and is widely read in philosophy courses around the world.

I think 'parasitic' is a bad term, 'deeply influenced' lends itself better and is less likely to be seen as pejorative. Wherever I read about Ayer and the Vienna Circle the phrasing is something like that.

'(arguably) arrogant' anyone accused of this is better refered to as 'polemical' in most cases.

'the book is a classic' might be better as 'the book is widely regarded as a classic of 20th century philosophy'

Page Needs expanding[edit]

I think that this page needs to be expanded by at least two-fold. There is much more to Ayer's philosophy than what is presented here. There is much more to say about the verification principle, the debunking of it, the controversies, Ayer's other ideas, and the criticisms of Ayer. There should also be more about his life and experiences. Most of what is currently here about his life seems to concern the minor event of Ayer confronting tyson at a party.

Are you up for the job? Quite frankly, I think Language, Truth and Logic has been dealt justice in its own entry, and I don't see much point in reiterating it here. Ayer's other philosophical works did not attract nearly as much attention -- Ayer's notoriety is fundamentally tied to the verification principle of logical empiricism. -- Palthrow 11:30, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Ayer's Atheism[edit]

I restored the "atheist philosopher" etc category. Notwithstanding the content of Language, Truth and Logic, Ayer was quite prepared to say "I do not believe in God. It seems to me that theists of all kinds have very largely failed to make their concept of a deity intelligible; and to the extent that they have made it intelligible, they have given us no reason to think that anything answers to it." see Ayer's article What I Believe in Humanist 81 (8)August 1966, p226. This is also cited on the atheism article, by the way. --Dannyno 08:24, 18 July 2006 (UTC)
Support There are people who keep removing Ayer from the atheist categories. Aside from your quotation, he is classified as an atheist in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [2]. If it's good enough for the SEP, I should think it's good enough for Wikipedia. -- Palthrow (talk) 15:50, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
The paragraph suggesting that Ayer was not an atheist should be eliminated, yes? I assume it was put there as special pleading by a theist, willing to misrepresent Ayer's point of view.````

Jewish philosopher???[edit]

Does Ayer belong in the Jewish Philosopher category? Although he may have had jewish ancestry, I seem to recall from Rogers that his mother wasn't jewish (may be mistaken). At any rate, Ayer was certainly never a practising Jew. I'm not sure he belongs in this category. Would like to hear what others think... -- Palthrow 18:08, 15 August 2006 (UTC)


Wikipedia has a strong atheistic bias. Theists tend to have criticisms which "debunk" their claims whereas athiests do not. I'm personally too apathetic to write, nor knowledgeable on the subject to the point where I can write a criticism, but one is needed.--Rotten 15:30, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

This article is about Ayer - I don't see any need to criticize athiesm here, or his beliefs. For example, ask yourself if it would be appropriate to list all the arguments for athiesm on the pope's page? Criticism from others about his theorums (e.g. Ayer's sense-data theory in Foundations of Empirical Knowledge was famously criticised by fellow Oxonian J. L. Austin in Sense and sensibilia) are fine. Richard001 06:04, 7 October 2006 (UTC)
Atheism wouldn't be the biggest challenge to the pope, that would be secularism and islam. But we need to add a criticism section on Ayer. Faro0485 (talk) 12:33, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Ayer's mother was Reine Citroën, who was of Dutch Jewish descent. That would have made Ayer halakhically Jewish. According to the Rogers biography, Ayer certainly thought of himself as being Jewish, but he did not have a Jewish religious upbringing, and he was an atheist from the age of 16. As to whether he ought to be listed as a Jewish philosopher, I suppose that would depend on what we mean by "Jewish philosopher." If a Jewish philosopher is simply a philosopher of Jewish descent, then Ayer would certainly qualify. If, on the other hand, we stipulate that a Jewish philosopher must in some way be concerned with engaging in his work in some way with the thoughts and ideas embedded in Judaism, in the ways that people like Maimonides did in their day, or which Hermann Cohen did in his or even Spinoza, then Ayer would not qualify as having been a Jewish philosopher. JimFarm 12:57, 23 June 2007 (UTC)


Can anybody help me out with the pronunciation of Ayer's name? Is it /ah-yer/ or /ay-yer/?

My prof pronounces it A-yer as in the letter A, but according to and, it has the same pronunciation as 'air'. –Pomte 08:42, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Near-Death Experience[edit]

What did this involve? Millbanks 21:02, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

According to the link in citation 4, he "choked on a piece of smoked salmon that stopped his heart for at least four minutes." –Pomte 21:20, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

I think the near death experience should be removed from the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:46, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

Link #9 is broken —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:18, 25 October 2010 (UTC)


What was the cause? P Cezanne (talk) 20:24, 15 December 2008 (UTC)


This article says in one place that Ayer was married four times, and in another place, two. Which is correct? Markjoseph125 (talk) 18:30, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Work for MI6[edit]

This article names a new MI6 history an names Ayer as an agent. Nothing more in this article, but might be interesting to look into the book. --Tcheh (talk) 10:11, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Ayer wrote about his work during the second world war with S.O.E (which was formed out of part of MI6) in his autobiography, and although he never admitted there to working directly with SIS around the same time or just after, this seems to have been common knowledge. The earliest reference I can find is in a 1994 biography of Goronwy Rees, but Ben Roger's biography of Ayer back in 2000 makes it explicit. --Dannyno (talk) 20:28, 6 October 2013 (UTC)


"I was told in advance that he was very ill, and that my time with him would be limited to 10 minutes. When I walked into the room, he was wearing an oxygen mask. There were two women in the room. I can’t remember how we got beyond those evident barriers — the social and the physical — but I remained with him for four hours. We talked about many things, but mainly the Second World War. Apparently, many Oxford philosophers had been involved in the war effort, in intelligence. I recall in particular a story Ayer told me about having saved De Gaulle’s life from a faction of the French resistance." --Gwern (contribs) 15:12 1 November 2010 (GMT)

Requested Move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: moved to A. J. Ayer. Mkativerata (talk) 20:42, 16 December 2010 (UTC)

Alfred Jules AyerA. J. Ayer — Isn't this by far the most common formatting of his name? George Richard Leeming (talk) 19:05, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Dead link[edit]

During several automated bot runs the following external link was found to be unavailable. Please check if the link is in fact down and fix or remove it in that case!

--JeffGBot (talk) 22:14, 19 June 2011 (UTC)

Fixed - replaced it with a link that works. -- Alarics (talk) 06:57, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

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Second only to Russell?[edit]

The introduction concludes,

Among British philosophers of the 20th century, he has been ranked by Stanford as second only to Bertrand Russell.

The Stanford page says:

Nevertheless, amongst British philosophers of the 20th Century he has been ranked as second only to Russell (by John Foster, in A.J. Ayer); Peter Strawson, at his memorial service, stated that his contribution to the theory of knowledge and general metaphysics was “in no way inferior to Russell's”. (See Ben Roger's A.J. Ayer p. 358).

The Stanford Encyclopedia does not rank Ayer as "second only to Russell", John Foster does. Strawson ranks him with Russell in two particular branches. As a result I have removed "the second only to Russell" sentence from the article. I hope this isn't presumptuous.

Coalpatch (talk) 20:35, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Atheist or Ignostic?[edit]

How did he latterly describe himself? Ben-Natan (talk) 23:05, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

His 1936 book implies the latter. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:07, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Incorrect. See exchange on Ayer's Atheism, above. --Dannyno (talk) 20:30, 6 October 2013 (UTC)
Ayer contradicted himself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:08, 10 October 2013 (UTC)