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The Problem of Knowledge

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  93 ratings  ·  8 reviews
In this major book the acclaimed author of Language Truth and Logic tackles one of the central issues of philosophy -- how can we be sure we know anything -- by setting out all the sceptic's arguments and trying to counter then one by one. In considering all the main philosophical issues involved -- how we know that something is a fact, that our senses and memory don't dec ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 28th 1957 by Penguin Books (first published 1956)
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  93 ratings  ·  8 reviews

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Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I read a portion of this book in college and decided it was time I read the whole thing. It's an important work in the field of epistemology, but not particularly readable. Still, Ayer was a major 20th Century philosopher and I've always been drawn to his work. Not this book, so much, but still it gave me a lot to think about.
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Strong two stars, but two stars nonetheless because a lot of ill-disguised and unjustified dogmatism and lazy periphrasis avoid assessing things essentially, although this is what the work aims for in investigating the nature of knowledge and the strength of the sceptical position.
Peter Jakobsen
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ayer is a blind alley albeit a convincing one. Yet logic and semantics will take us only so far and reading him, one thinks "you're too clever by half...too clever for our good..."
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it

In Plato's myth, the shadows on the wall of the cave, which are all that the prisoners can see, are contrasted with substantial objects outside. Phenomenalism seems to leave us with nothing but the shadows.

My first book by Ayer, and I should probably have started with Language, Truth & Logic—but I already had this one. Clear work, but quite dry and several of the discussions seem outdated in the light of Gettier, Kripke etc. I found it interesting mostly as a record of what was being done du
Octavia Cade
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
OK, here's the thing. This book wasn't awful. For a philosophy book, it was actually reasonably well-written. Ayer is in love with commas, but he uses simple examples and tries to refrain from sounding like he's just swallowed a dictionary, so this book at least has the virtue of being somewhat accessible to the average reader.

I suspect I've given it a lower score than it deserves, but I just can't get past the subject matter. This aspect of philosophy (How do you know? How do you know that you
Feb 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
The problem of "The problem of Knowledge":

Ironically, the writing is so painfully verbose and convoluted that it is difficult to understand. Clearly "I myself" must be the answer to its ambitious title. Furthermore, the examples tend to be placed where they provide no help to the reader, rather than where they might pull some gems out of the ether. Perhaps one day someone will rewrite this text more helpfully.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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In 1910, Sir Alfred Jules Ayer was born in London into a wealthy family. His father was a Swiss Calvinist and his mother was of Dutch-Jewish ancestry. Ayer attended Eton College and studied philosophy and Greek at Oxford University. From 1946 to 1959, he taught philosophy at University College London. He then became Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford. Ayer was knighted in 1970. ...more