An authorized biography of the twentieth-century philosopher studies the enigma surrounding the man whose book "Language, Truth, and Logic" rocked the world of philosophy.
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A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) was a man of startling complexity: an exceptionally rigorous and penetrating philosopher, he was also an ardent sports fan, dancer, and seducer. He traveled in the most glamorous social circles, yet his friends found him oddly remote. A brilliant, strangely vulnerable man, Ayer comes vividly to life in this acclaimed biography.
An analytic philosopher in the tradition of Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, Ayer was a leading exponent of Logical Positivism. Attacking the view that philosophy had anything to teach us about the nature of the universe or how to live, he sought to liberate life from the shackles of traditional metaphysics. This approach challenged many fundamental beliefs of his fellow philosophers, and Ayer's dogged and eloquent articulation of his views earned him many enemies even as he succeeded in changing the course of British philosophy. Ben Rogers provides a clear and accessible account of Ayer's philosophical writings and assesses their signficance to twentieth-century philosophy.
Rogers also offers fascinating insights into the links between Ayer's philosophy and his life. He guides us through the young philosopher's troubled years at Eton, using Ayer's experience there to create an indelible portrait of England's upper classes during the twilight years of Victorian privilege. He takes us to Oxford, where Ayer astounded his tutors with his acumen and iconoclastic zeal, and where he befriended Isaiah Berlin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, e.e. cummings, and other great thinkers and writers of the era.
Ayer was only twenty-four when he wrote his most influential book, Language, Truth and Logic. Its success catapulted him into the public eye, where he reveled for decades as an intellectual, political campaigner, and socialite. He was married four times (but to three women) and had countless affairs.
Yet despite his social charms and appetite for life, Ayer, half French-Swiss and half Dutch-Jewish, remained something of an outsider, and many who knew him well considered him melancholy and oddly shallow. Rogers explores his complicated and often contradictory personality with a sympathetic eye. Succeeding as both a personal portrait and a rigorous philosophical assessment, A.J. Ayer is a powerful biography of a provocative thinker and unforgettable man.
"A delightful discourse on an extraordinarly full life: Rogers succeeds in capturing the spirit of a philosophical maverick who many loved to hate."--Kirkus Reviews
"Ben Rogers has pulled off a feat of biography that deserves to take its place alongside the two other great biographies of philosophers of recent times: Michael Ignatieff's Isaiah Berlin and Roy Monk's Wittgenstein."--Alain de Botton, Mail on Sunday
"A.J. Ayer lived a fascinating life and in Rogers he has found an ideal biographer.... [An] excellent book, masterly in its exposition of the philosophy as much as in its analysis of the life."--Frank McLynn, New Statesman
"An incisive, highly intelligent and entertaining biography.... One cannot help feeling fond of this strange, brilliant, playful man."--John Banville, Irish Times
"A marvelous story...A.J. Ayer [had a] truly fascinating life, which Ben Rogers in this biography fills in with all the color and detail it deserves. I can't recommend the book too highly."--Peregrine Worsthorne, Independent on Sunday
"Ben Rogers has written a solid and well-turned biography of the philosopher, covering the full range of his interests and his foibles. I found it gripping reading."--Colin McGinn, The Times Literary Supplement
"An expert analysis of Ayer's developments and achievements is combined with a detailed description of his personal and social life.... For anyone interested in the cultural history of our time, Ben Rogers's book is of absorbing interest."--Raymond Carr, The Spectator
Ben Rogers wrote his doctoral thesis at Oxford on seventeenth-century moral and political thought. He has produced programs on philosophy for BBC Radio and writes regularly on politics and philosophy for several British newspapers. He is the authoFrom the Back Cover:
"A feat of biography that deserves to take its place alongside the two other great biographies of philosophers of recent times: Michael Ignatieff's Isaiah Berlin and Ray Monk's Wittgenstein." - Mail on Sunday
"Rogers--provides excellent and sympathetic summaries of all Ayer's main books and articles. Admirable." - Sunday Times
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