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A. J. Ayer


Sir Alfred Jules "Freddie" Ayer (29 October 1910 – 27 June 1989) was a British philosopher known for his promotion of logical positivism, particularly in his books Language, Truth, and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956).

Ayer was a Special Operations Executive and MI6 agent during the Second World War. He was the Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London from 1946 until 1959, when he became Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1951 to 1952. He was knighted in 1970.

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

Some notable quotes include:

"Theism is so confused and the sentences in which 'God' appears so incoherent and so incapable of verifiability or falsifiability that to speak of belief or unbelief, faith or unfaith, is logically impossible."

"If the assertion that there is a god is nonsensical, then the atheist's assertion that there is no god is equally nonsensical, since it is only a significant proposition that can be contradicted."[Language, Truth and Logic]

"I take it, therefore, to be a fact, that one's existence ends with death. I think it possible to show how this fact can be emotionally acceptable." [The Humanist Outlook, 1968]


1.) "Conversely, an absolute denial of God's existence is equally meaningless, since verification is impossible. However, despite this assertion, Ayer may be considered a practical atheist: one who sees no reason to worship an invisible deity." 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt, by James A. Haught, Prometheus Books, 1996, p. 276.

2.) "I was thoroughly irritated when Freddie Ayer, the philosopher who was at Christ Church with me, presented me with a book inscribed: 'To my fellow atheist'." Lord Dacre, 'I liked the elegant, frivolous life...', Daily Telegraph, January 28, 2003, Pg. 17.

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