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Ideas of A.J. Ayer, by Text

[British, 1910 - 1989, Born London. Taught by Gilbert Ryle. Visited Vienna Circle in early 1930s. Professor at Universities of London and Oxford.]

1936 Language,Truth and Logic
p.15 Humeans rejected the a priori synthetic, and so rejected even Kantian metaphysics [Macdonald,C]
p.123 Empiricism lacked a decent account of the a priori, until Ayer said it was entirely analytic [O'Grady]
p.227 Positivists prefer sense-data to objects, because the vocabulary covers both illusions and perceptions [Robinson,H]
p.227 Logical positivists could never give the sense-data equivalent of 'there is a table next door' [Robinson,H]
p.227 Positivists regard ontology as either meaningless or stipulated [Robinson,H]
Ch.1 p.45 Philosophy deals with the questions that scientists do not wish to handle
Ch.1 p.45 All propositions (especially 'metaphysics') must begin with the senses
Ch.1 p.48 A sentence is factually significant to someone if they know how to verify its proposition
Ch.1 p.51 Only tautologies can be certain; other propositions can only be probable
Ch.1 p.52 Factual propositions imply (in conjunction with a few other premises) possible experiences
Ch.1 p.53 It is further sense-experience which informs us of the mistakes that arise out of sense-experience
Ch.1 p.56 Tautologies and empirical hypotheses form the entire class of significant propositions
Ch.1 p.58 When we ascribe an attribute to a thing, we covertly assert that it exists
Ch.2 p.65 Philosophers should abandon speculation, as philosophy is wholly critical
Ch.2 p.66 The induction problem is to prove generalisations about the future based on the past
Ch.2 p.66 We can't use the uniformity of nature to prove induction, as that would be circular
Ch.2 p.71 Causal and representative theories of perception are wrong as they refer to unobservables
Ch.2 p.75 Critics say analysis can only show the parts, and not their distinctive configuration
Ch.2 p.76 Philosophy is a department of logic
Ch.2 p.77 We could verify 'a thing can't be in two places at once' by destroying one of the things [Ierubino]
Ch.2 p.77 By changing definitions we could make 'a thing can't be in two places at once' a contradiction
Ch.4 p.96 Empiricism, it is said, cannot account for our knowledge of necessary truths
Ch.4 p.98 The main claim of rationalism is that thought is an independent source of knowledge
Ch.4 p.103 Maths and logic are true universally because they are analytic or tautological
Ch.4 p.110 Whether geometry can be applied to reality is an empirical question outside of geometry
Ch.4 p.115 To say that a proposition is true a priori is to say that it is a tautology
Ch.5 p.118 We cannot analyse the concept of 'truth', because it is simply a mark that a sentence is asserted
Ch.6 p.17 Ayer defends the emotivist version of expressivism [Smith,M]
Ch.6 p.141 Moral intuition is worthless if there is no criterion to decide between intuitions
Ch.6 p.142 To say an act is wrong makes no further statement about it, but merely expresses disapproval
Ch.6 p.153 If theism is non-sensical, then so is atheism.
Ch.6 p.154 A person with non-empirical attributes is unintelligible.
Ch.6 p.155 The 'truths' expressed by theists are not literally significant
Ch.7 p.161 My empiricism logically distinguishes analytic and synthetic propositions, and metaphysical verbiage
Ch.7 p.162 Material things are constructions from actual and possible occurrences of sense-contents
Ch.7 p.164 The supposed 'gulf' between mind and matter is based on the senseless concept of 'substances'
Ch.7 p.165 If the self is meaningful, it must be constructed from sense-experiences
Ch.7 p.165 Two experiences belong to one self if their contents belong with one body
Ch.7 p.168 Empiricists can define personal identity as bodily identity, which consists of sense-contents
Ch.7 p.170 Other minds are 'metaphysical' objects, because I can never observe their experiences
Ch.7 p.172 A conscious object is by definition one that behaves in a certain way, so behaviour proves consciousness
1940 The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge
p.303 No one has defended translational phenomenalism since Ayer in 1940 [Kim]
IV.18 p.186 The attribution of necessity to causation is either primitive animism, or confusion with logical necessity
1946 Introduction to 'Language Truth and Logic'
p.10 p.10 Sentences only express propositions if they are meaningful; otherwise they are 'statements'
p.13 p.13 Basic propositions refer to a single experience, are incorrigible, and conclusively verifiable
p.15 p.15 A statement is meaningful if observation statements can be deduced from it
p.17 p.17 Directly verifiable statements must entail at least one new observation statement
p.21 p.21 The principle of verification is not an empirical hypothesis, but a definition
p.26 p.26 The argument from analogy fails, so the best account of other minds is behaviouristic
p.27 p.27 Moral approval and disapproval concerns classes of actions, rather than particular actions
1947 Phenomenalism
1 p.125 Modern phenomenalism holds that objects are logical constructions out of sense-data
1 p.131 The concept of sense-data allows us to discuss appearances without worrying about reality
1949 On the analysis of moral judgements
p.246 Moral theories are all meta-ethical, and are neutral as regards actual conduct
p.233 p.233 Some people think there are ethical facts, but of a 'queer' sort
p.237 p.237 Approval of historical or fictional murders gives us leave to imitate them
p.238 p.238 Moral judgements are not expressions, but are elements in a behaviour pattern
p.239 p.239 I would describe intuitions of good as feelings of approval
p.244 p.244 A right attitude is just an attitude one is prepared to stand by
p.247 p.247 Moral judgements cannot be the logical consequence of a moral philosophy
1956 The Problem of Knowledge
2.iii p.45 To say 'I am not thinking' must be false, but it might have been true, so it isn't self-contradictory
2.iii p.48 'I know I exist' has no counterevidence, so it may be meaningless
2.iii p.52 Knowing I exist reveals nothing at all about my nature
2.viii p.7 Induction assumes some uniformity in nature, or that in some respects the future is like the past
2.viii p.72 Induction passes from particular facts to other particulars, or to general laws, non-deductively
2.viii p.74 We only discard a hypothesis after one failure if it appears likely to keep on failing
1963 The Concept of a Person
I p.84 We identify experiences by their owners, so we can't define owners by their experiences
I p.87 Maybe induction could never prove the existence of something unobservable
IV p.113 Consciousness must involve a subject, and only bodies identify subjects
IV p.114 Memory is the best proposal as what unites bundles of experiences
IV p.114 Not all exerience can be remembered, as this would produce an infinite regress
IV p.116 People own conscious states because they are causally related to the identifying body
IV p.128 Personal identity can't just be relations of experiences, because the body is needed to identify them
1973 The Central Questions of Philosophy
VI.A p.112 Self-consciousness is not basic, because experiences are not instrinsically marked with ownership
VI.B p.116 Bodily identity and memory work together to establish personal identity
VI.B p.118 Qualia must be united by a subject, because they lead to concepts and judgements
VI.B p.118 Is something an 'experience' because it relates to other experiences, or because it relates to a subject?
VI.C p.125 Temporal gaps in the consciousness of a spirit could not be bridged by memories
VI.D p.126 Originally I combined a mentalistic view of introspection with a behaviouristic view of other minds
VI.D p.130 Why shouldn't we say brain depends on mind? Better explanation!
VI.E p.132 Physicalism undercuts the other mind problem, by equating experience with 'public' brain events
VI.E p.134 The theory of other minds has no rival
VI.E p.134 You can't infer that because you have a hidden birth-mark, everybody else does
9.A.5 p.197 We see properties necessary for a kind (in the definition), but not for an individual
IX.C p.204 It is currently held that quantifying over something implies belief in its existence
IX.C p.208 Talk of propositions is just shorthand for talking about equivalent sentences