The followiing is from AN Wilson, the eminent novelist and essayist; the full text is in this week’s New Statesman. If we want to think about how philosophy may be limited by being white, then we might also find some relief from such serious reflections in some other questions about philosophy and its neglect of full human experience. This one should, like Wilson’s reflection, follow on a good dinner with lots of wine:
I remember one evening, a quarter of a century ago at New College, Oxford, sitting next to A J Ayer at dinner. I was the most junior of college lecturers; he was the Wykeham Professor of Logic and a renowned philosopher. He told me that no medieval philosopher was worth reading and he was proud to be able to say that he had not read one word of Thomas Aquinas.
Ayer was a genial man but his arrogance could take your breath away….
As the evening wore on, wine flowed and it would not be possible to outline his argument (if it existed) in any detail. But I do remember what he said at the end of the dinner: “Even logical positivists think love is important!”
No doubt he had trotted out a recitation of his non-creed – namely that most aesthetic, moral and spiritual judgements were “meaningless”. But if even logical positivists thought that love was important, was it not strange that they had not set their nimble minds to saying why they thought it was important and what they thought it was?
Cycling home under the starry Oxford night sky, I felt that there were more interesting philosophical questions and answers in Dante’s Comedy than in Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic. Love dominates our lives. Its rampages dislocate the heart. Sometimes, it seems linked to sexual desire; sometimes, it seems different. Religion, especially the Christian religion, uses the word to describe the life and activity of God. But when we are kept awake by the thought of the beautiful face of the girl (N.B.) we currently adore, is this love at war with the love of God or is it, as Dante apparently thought, somehow connected? What use was a philosophy that refused to ask such questions, let alone provide an answer?
It is interesting, and not at all surprising, that a feted British man of letters still thinks of himself as sleeping with girls. Still, AN Wilson is an outsider to academic philosophy, and in fact rather a decided one at that, I believe. So to that extent, his position is occupiable by many feminists.