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The Problem of Knowledge (1956)

av A. J. Ayer

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In this book, the author of "Language, Truth and Logic" tackles one of the central issues of philosophy - how we can know anything - by setting out all the sceptic's arguments and trying to counter them one by one

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  laplantelibrary | Dec 12, 2021 |
As is evident from the title, this book is on the the philosophy of knowledge or epistemology.
Though it is quite suitable for the general reader, in that a knowledge of philosophy is not really presumed, it is the sort of book that must be concentrated upon when reading, as the arguments are many-sided and the logic quite expert. Despite its short length though, (220 pages), this book covers an impressive range of ideas, which is made possible by the density of the prose. This isn't to say though that the book is hard going, for what it is, as the style is quite readable and even enjoyable, providing that one can concentrate on it, as the ideas and arguments themselves require a bit of thought to appreciate.
The first chapter discusses knowledge, what it is, and what it isn't. The second chapter deals with certainty and scepticism, and outlines of the four main ways to address scepticism: Naive realism, Reductionism, the Scientific Approach, and Descriptive Analysis. What I found interesting in this chapter was the defence he put forward for Naive Realism, which is an approach that I hadn't seriously considered before. Arguments are presented in favour and against of each of the four approaches though, and none of them are yet decided upon.
The third chapter deals with perception, and I found this to be the dullest chapter as there was less that seemed new here. The fourth chapter deals with Memory, and I enjoyed reading this one. The thoughts on reverse causation and precognition seemed to me to be quite new, and stimulating, and stood out among many of the other views which seemed at least in part derived from previous thinkers (though this cannot be avoided in any comprehensive philosophical discussion).
The next chapter was on personal identity and continuity of self, and I couldn't quite see how all of this was relevant to the original question. But the final few pages did give support to the overall direction in which he has been heading in throughout the book, to give an answer on what knowledge is and how it is attained. As I interpret it, he says that the sceptic defines knowledge, and it is defined logically, in a way that prevents us of being sure of knowing things (except mathematical and logical truths), but that this is logically unavoidable given the definition of knowledge, so we should rely on the next best thing - empiricism. I don't recall falsification being mentioned at all, which is a very important part of the scientific method, but this is perhaps not within the scope of the book. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Dec 21, 2011 |
Sir Alfred Jules "Freddie" Ayer (10/29/1910, London – 6/27/1989, London), British philosopher known for promoting logical positivism, particularly in Language, Truth, and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._J._Ayer ( )
  vegetarian | Oct 5, 2011 |
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In this book, the author of "Language, Truth and Logic" tackles one of the central issues of philosophy - how we can know anything - by setting out all the sceptic's arguments and trying to counter them one by one

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