Phil Ford

From the vaults of the New York Times (by way of Obsidian Wings), the best two-fisted tale of philosophy ever told. Who knew that A.J. Ayer, paragon of English logical positivism, was a total badass?

One of the last of the many legendary contests won by the British
philosopher A. J. Ayer was his encounter with Mike Tyson in 1987. As
related by Ben Rogers in ”A. J. Ayer: A Life,” Ayer — small, frail,
slight as a sparrow and then 77 years old — was entertaining a group
of models at a New York party when a girl ran in screaming that her
friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. The parties involved turned
out to be Tyson and Naomi Campbell. ”Do you know who . . . I am?”
Tyson asked in disbelief when Ayer urged him to desist: ”I’m the
heavyweight champion of the world.” ”And I am the former Wykeham
professor of logic,” Ayer answered politely. ”We are both pre-eminent
in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.”

Which they did, apparently.

My Dad was a philosophy professor who specialized in logic and was an admirer of Ayer, with whom he studied. He (my Dad) once contrived a tongue-twister intended to exploit the French-Canadian tendency to add H’s to words that begin with vowels and subtract them from words that begin with H: “A. J. Ayer eats hen’s eggs.”

On a related note: philosopher superhero comics. (“Plato smash!”)

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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2 Responses to Gangsta!

  1. CJS says:

    Great story. There’s an analogous one about the great Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher Shinryu Suzuki Roshi, one of the first Zen teachers to take on Western students (in San Francisco, in the early ’60s). The SF Zen Center was located in a not-very-good part of the city, and they had some trouble with corner guys barging in and raising a ruckus.
    During one such event, 3 of the corner guys encountered Suzuki-roshi in the corridor at SFZC, when the Roshi was carrying a kyusaku, a bamboo “waking stick” with which Zen teachers are accustomed to administer “wake-up” taps on the shoulders of sleepy meditators.
    One of the corner guys said, threateningly, to the Roshi “Hey, man, whaddayou do with that stick?!?”
    The Roshi–who stood five feet tall and weighted about 110 pounds–looked very feirce and said “I *HIT* people with it!”. Then he reached out and gently tapped the ringleader on the shoulder.
    Eventually and over the years, the SFZC became a valued part of the community, bought/renovated/leased housing, started a bakery that employed neighborhood people, and so on.
    Insight is insight. May we all similarly manifest same.

  2. CJS says:

    Duh. “Fierce.”

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