Monday, June 27, 2011
A. J. Ayer (1910-1989)
Sir Alfred Jules Ayer was the Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London and the Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford. Ayer came from a moneyed family and went to Eton, where he played rugby and campaigned against corporal punishment. He excelled academically but was militantly unconventional and often snubbed when it came to prizes, positions, and the like. His reputation as a philosopher was made with a slim volume called Language, Truth, and Logic that became a controversial best seller and he became a prominent public face of humanism and atheism. His life included a series of wives and mistresses and parties, including one where, at age 77, he boldly prevented Mike Tyson from harassing Naomi Campbell. In 1988, after choking on a piece of salmon smuggled into the hospital by a former mistress, he died for four minutes and had a near death experience where he saw a bright red light responsible for "government of the universe". Despite the claims of some that it shook the foundations of his philosophy, it did little to alter his convictions. He died the following year on June 27, 1989.