AJ Ayer, 1987: an imagined narrative based on a true anecdote.

‘Freddie’ lightened his step towards Sanchez’s apartment, wishing to appear precocious and yet desirable to the swathes of women waiting outside. Not for him. He knew that; he was nearing 80 and starting to feel less certain than ever.

The insatiable desire to be recognised and desired had left his intellectual harmony in shreds; his firm convictions had dwindled to ‘a death of a thousand qualifications’ as his trend of philosophy was lying dormant; nothing was as meaningful or meaningless as A or B, but rather the lines of morality, yes, of his own life, were much less defined. It was the only way to answer for his respected Oxonian persona and yet the fact that Jocelyn was no longer living with him. 11 years and counting. No language game could talk this proposition into meaning apart from dull pain.

He knew that, should he be spotted- as a 78 year old at a fashion designer’s party- by the new Dons sitting at tables and talking about ‘bliks’ and Flew’s falsification symposium, they’d leave him for dead on the cliffs of unofficial university tabloids. As if claiming that his entire principle was fallacious had not sealed his legacy. No doubt, though, when he eventually did die, which couldn’t be long now, Flew would be the first to claim him and reverence his name; the Gods would be invoked in funerial incantations in a complete reversal of everything he’d written at 24.

Amid his thoughts, his body had found its way into a gaggle of high pitched cooing and all the expected hooey. It was here that Freddie felt he could access his inner self- or the chemical reactions that indicated a personhood worthy of investigation. Was he a fake? Had his entire life just been a complex series of language aversions set up to promote his self-interest?

A small voice, laced with the natural slurs of cocktail-drinking, murmured something about trouble upstairs. Wanting to escape his emotional trench, he heard himself volunteer to help this rescue expedition. Quickly, the school of sequinned dresses parted, and, facing Freddie, was a rag doll figure with a pixie cut, draped over the well-endowed back of some manner of sportsperson. Feeling at last a sense of personal duty and a meaningful imperative, Freddie lunged, cricket legs, to prevent the nastiness which was sure to occur with a drunk young man and an ensconced model. He had seen similar things almost 70 years ago, and knew that an element of surprise was the best chance a woman would get to slip away.

What he did not expect, in his conceit, was for the figure to turn around and dodge him. “Do you know who the f*** I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world!”, the voice belonging to Mike Tyson. This was a surprise, but a logical challenge that the aged Freddie was finally ready to face head-on, after years of aversions, excuses and qualifications for his bad behaviour around women.

“And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” Stunned, Tyson let go of Naomi Campbell, for Ayer had recognised the model, and set up to punch Freddie, but found his fist unfurled by these queer words from a strange man. Perhaps, after all, language could be meaningful.

Source of biography/review: http://www2.phil.cam.ac.uk/~swb24/reviews/Ayer.htm

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store