April 27, 2012

A.J. Ayer on Logical Positivism

I've just discovered on youtube a fascinating set of programs presented by Bryan Magee. He interviewed in the seventies, leading philosophers about their ideas- so you have Iris Murdoch talking about literature and philosophy, Freddie Ayer on Russel and Frege, Hilary Putnam on the philosophy of science, John Searle on Wittgenstein etc etc. I've finished this particular broadcast: the others I'm currently working through- but this discussion between Ayer and Magee is fascinating.

There are three further parts to the interview.

Why is this so fascinating? The philosophical content is very interesting of course. I think there is something more though to it than this: Ayer was responsible for logical positivism coming to Oxford in the thirties- with language, logic and truth he began a conversation about it that lasted for the rest of the century. The conversation therefore records not just a thinker talking about a set of thoughts, but a thinker talking about his own impact, in his youth. During the fourth part, Magee asks Ayer to reflect on what he thinks of the weaknesses of logical positivism: Ayer's responses are very interesting because they show a wry detatchment from the Ayer of the 30s, a withdrawel from some positions, the adaptation of other positions. Its a perspective that is worth having and one I suspect that requires a certain type of maturity, confidence and longevity to attain to.


James Higham said...

Y-e-e-e-s-s, his near-death experience was interesting, wasn't it? Old Ayersy is in fact not a bad advertisement for G-d exists.