(by A. J. Ayer)
It is a pleasure to read Ayer’s demolition of metaphysics, even though it leaves an arid philosophical landscape.
Written in 1936, a time when perhaps we might have done with a small dollop of silly spirituality, Ayer has the cracking lines: ‘Our charge against the metaphysician is not that he attempts to employ the understanding in a field where it cannot profitably venture, but that he produces sentences which fail to conform to the conditions under which alone a sentence can be literally significant. Nor are we ourselves obliged to talk nonsense in order to show that all sentences of a certain type are necessarily devoid of literal significance.’.
And yet, the sentence of a very different philosopher, ‘It loved to happen’, which to my narrow mind is devoid of literal significance, has equal value.
There was a young man who said “God must think it exceedingly odd if he finds that this tree continues to be when there’s no one about in the Quad.”