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The Meaning of Life According to AJ Ayer

What did the philosopher AJ Ayer have to say on life's big question? A former student of his, Professor AC Grayling, explores his thinking on the subject.

What was an English philosopher doing at a New York party, saving the young model Naomi Campbell from a rather pushy boxing heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson? The philosopher was Alfred Jules Ayer, who was just as at home mixing with the glitterati as he was with Oxford dons. On the one hand he was an academic, on the other a celebrity and bon viveur.

So what does this logician have to say about the meaning of life?

In 1988, a year before his death, he gave a lecture at the Conway Hall in which he set out his notion of existence. By this time, 'Freddie' Ayer was one of the UK's most prominent public intellectuals, with regular television and radio appearances, discussing the moral issues of the day.

Ayer's former student at Oxford, philosopher AC Grayling, remembers the tutor that became his friend. He explores the man of contradictions - the atheist who almost recanted after a near-death incident; the deep thinker with a weakness for mistresses and Tottenham Hotspur. What was his contribution to philosophy? How did it inform the way he lived his life? What, if anything, can we learn from Freddie's view on the big question?

Producer: Dom Byrne
A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

58 minutes

Last on

Sat 11 Apr 2015 20:00