Alfred Ayer

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Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (29 October 1910, London – 27 June 1989, London), better known as A. J. Ayer or "Freddie" to friends, 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 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.



Ayer was born into a wealthy European family. His mother, Reine Citroën, was from the Dutch-Jewish family who founded the Citroën car company in France. His father, Jules Ayer, was a Swiss Calvinist financier who worked for the Rothschild family.

He was born and grew up in St John's Wood, London. He was educated at Ascham St Vincent's Preparatory School and Eton, and then won a classics scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford. He served as an officer in the Welsh Guards during World War II, working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and spying for MI6.[2] He was a noted social mixer and womanizer, and was married four times, including to Dee Wells and Vanessa Salmon (thus becoming stepfather to Nigella Lawson). Reputedly he liked dancing and attending the clubs in London and New York. He was also obsessed with sports, a noted cricketer, and a keen supporter of the Tottenham Hotspur football team.

Ayer was a well-known social figure in his time, and his circle of friends included many famous people in public life, amongst them Cyril Connolly, Graham Greene, George Orwell, E.E. Cummings, Meyer Schapiro, Arthur Koestler, Bertrand Russell, Stuart Hampshire, Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden, Philip Toynbee, Isaiah Berlin, Hugh Gaitskell, Roy Jenkins, Michael Foot, Richard Crossman, Jonathan Miller, Angus Wilson, Alan Bennett, Alice Thomas Ellis, Jane Fontaine, Iris Murdoch, V. S. Pritchett, and Christopher Hitchens.[3]

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