A. J. Ayer by Ben Rogers
A Life

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A. J. Ayer (1910 - 1989) was a man of startling complexity; an exceptionally rigorous and penetrating philosopher, he was also a dedicated hedonist, dancer, and seducer. He traveled in the most glamorous social circles, yet his friends found him oddly remote. This brilliant, strangely vulnerable man comes vividly to life in this acclaimed biography. Ben Rogers provides an unusually clear account of Ayer's philosophical writings and assesses their significance to twentieth-century philosophy. He also offers fascinating insights into the links between Ayer's philosophy and his life. Rogers guides us through his troubled years at Eton, using Ayer's experience there to create an indelible portrait of England's upper classes in the first half of the century. He takes us to Oxford, where Ayer astounded his tutors with his acumen and iconoclastic zeal, and where he met Isaiah Berlin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, 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, and set out to put an end to philosophy itself. The success of this book catapulted Ayer into the public eye, where he reveled for decades as a media guest, political activist, and socialite. Rogers re-creates both his public and his personal lives with a sympathetic but balanced eye. Colorful, intimate, and often poignant, this is a powerful biography of a provocative thinker and unforgettable man. "A.J. Ayer lived a fascinating life and in Rogers he has found an ideal biographer." -- Frank McLynn, New Statesman

About Ben Rogers

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Ben Rogers reviews regularly for the "TLS," "Guardian" and "Independent on Sunday," He is the author of "Pascal: In Praise of Vanity," "From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published January 1, 1999 by CHATTO & WINDUS. 412 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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“There is philosophy, which is about conceptual analysis—about the meaning of what we say,” Rogers quotes Ayer as saying, “and there is all of this—all of life.” If we sometimes get the impression that Ayer tried simply to eliminate the problems of philosophy, to portray them as needless misunder...

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Publishers Weekly

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The publisher quotes Alain de Botton's praise for this biography in England's Sunday Mail and it may garner fine reviews here as well, but despite the raciness of Ayer's life, the primary audience for this volume will be found only among serious students of 20th-century philosophy.

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London Review of Books

Ayer: A Life, said not that ‘Ayer never met Wittgenstein’ but that ‘at Ryle’s suggestion he gave up the idea of sitting at Wittgenstein’s feet in Cambridge and instead went to Vienna to work with Moritz Schlick.’ The two men did meet, on at least two occasions, both of which are described by Roge...

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Project MUSE

Ben Rogers nicely intertwines the facts of Ayer's day-to-day life—which is not to say "quotidian," given Ayer's ego and libido—with his philosophical peregrinations.

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