Ayer, Alfred Jules

(1910-89)
   Ayer, sometime Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford, is chiefly of interest to Christian philosophers because of his outspoken attack on religious belief in his 1936 classic Language, Truth and Logic. In this book he claimed that religious utterances failed not only to be true, but failed even to be meaningful. Ayer argued that this was because they did not meet the verification principle, which stipulated that a sentence expressed a meaningful statement if and only if it was either analytic or empirically verifiable, that is, 'not indeed that it should be conclusively verifiable, but that some possible sense-experience should be relevant to the determination of its truth or falsehood' (Preface to Language, Truth and Logic). Since, in Ayer's view, religious sentences were neither analytic nor verifiable in this way, they did not express meaningful statements. Some philosophers of religion, such as R. B. Braithwaite, attempted to reformulate religious language to meet Ayer's criterion, but the majority of Christian philosophers, with Alvin Plantinga being a prime example, argued that Ayer's criterion was either self-refuting or represented a personal decision of Ayer's to record his own way of using the word 'meaningful', which was of little interest to Christians.
   Further reading: Ayer 1978, 1984, 2001 and 2004; Hahn 1992; Rogers, Ben 2000

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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