A. C. Grayling
At the 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival
|Master of the New College of the Humanities|
Anthony Clifford Grayling
3 April 1949
Luanshya, Northern Rhodesia
|Residence||Central London, England|
|Education||BA (Sussex), BA (London), MA (Sussex), DPhil (Oxon)|
|Alma mater|| University of Sussex |
Magdalen College, Oxford
|History of ideas, humanist ethics|
|Criticism of arguments for the existence of God|
Anthony Clifford Grayling CBE ( // ; born 3 April 1949), commonly known as A. C. Grayling, is a British philosopher and author. He was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and spent most of his childhood there and in Malawi. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991. He is also a supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.
Northern Rhodesia was a protectorate in south central Africa, formed in 1911 by amalgamating the two earlier protectorates of Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia. It was initially administered, as were the two earlier protectorates, by the British South Africa Company (BSAC), a chartered company, on behalf of the British Government. From 1924, it was administered by the British Government as a protectorate, under similar conditions to other British-administered protectorates, and the special provisions required when it was administered by BSAC were terminated.
Zambia, officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in south-central Africa. Its neighbors are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, Namibia to the southwest, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, located in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest, the core economic hubs of the country.
Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. Malawi spans over 118,484 km2 (45,747 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 18,091,575. Lake Malawi takes up about a third of Malawi's area. Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi's largest city; the second largest is Blantyre, the third largest is Mzuzu and the fourth largest is its old capital Zomba. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed "The Warm Heart of Africa" because of the friendliness of the people.
Grayling is the author of about 30 books on philosophy, biography, history of ideas, human rights and ethics, including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Future of Moral Values (1997), Wittgenstein (1992), What Is Good? (2000), The Meaning of Things (2001), The Good Book (2011), The God Argument (2013), The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind (2016) and Democracy and its Crises (2017).
The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life, published in the U.S. as Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age, is a book by A. C. Grayling. First published in 2001, the work offers popular treatments of philosophical reasoning, weaving together ideas from various writers and traditions. It consists of short essays on a variety of subjects which, although deeply rooted in philosophy, are everyday phenomena encountered, recognized, and understood by everyone.
The Good Book is a book by A. C. Grayling. It was published in March 2011 by Walker & Company with the subtitle A Humanist Bible, and in April 2011 by Bloomsbury with the subtitle A Secular Bible.
The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism is a 2013 book by the English philosopher and humanist, A. C. Grayling, in which he counters the arguments for the existence of God, and puts forward humanism as an alternative to religion.
He was a trustee of the London Library and a fellow of the World Economic Forum, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.For a number of years he was a columnist for The Guardian newspaper, and presented the BBC World Service series Exchanges at the Frontier on science and society. In 2013 he was awarded the Forkosch Literary Prize, and in 2015 he received the Bertrand Russell Award.
The London Library is an independent lending library in London, established in 1841. It was founded on the initiative of Thomas Carlyle, who was dissatisfied with some of the policies at the British Museum Library. It is located at 14 St. James's Square, in the St James's area of the City of Westminster, which has been its home since 1845. Membership is open to all, on payment of an annual subscription, and life and corporate memberships are also available. As of March 2015 the Library had 6,708 members.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland, was founded in 1971 as a not-for-profit organization. It was granted "other international body" status in January 2015 by the Swiss Federal Government under the Swiss Host-State Act. The WEF's mission is cited as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".
The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) is a learned society founded in 1820, by King George IV, to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The society is a cultural tenant at London's Somerset House.
Grayling was a director and contributor at Prospect magazine from its foundation until 2016. He is a vice-president of Humanists UK and honorary associate of the National Secular Society,and Patron of the Defence Humanists. His main academic interests lie in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophical logic and he has published works in these subjects. His political affiliations lie on the centre-left, and he has defended human rights and politically liberal values in print and by activism. He is associated in Britain with other new atheists. He frequently appears in British media discussing philosophy and public affairs.
Prospect is a monthly British general interest magazine, specialising in politics, economics and current affairs. Topics include British, European, and US politics, social issues, art, literature, cinema, science, the media, history, philosophy, and psychology. It features a mixture of lengthy analytic articles, first-person reportage, one-page columns, and shorter, quirky items.
Humanists UK, known from 1967 until May 2017 as the British Humanist Association (BHA), is a charitable organisation which promotes Humanism and aims to represent "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs" in the United Kingdom by campaigning on issues relating to humanism, secularism, and human rights. It seeks to act as a representative body for non-religious people in the UK.
The National Secular Society (NSS) is a British campaigning organisation that promotes secularism and the separation of church and state. It holds that no one should gain advantage or disadvantage because of their religion or lack of it. It was founded by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866 and is now a member organisation of Humanists International, endorsing the Amsterdam Declaration 2002.
Grayling was born and raised in Luanshya, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), within the British expatriate enclave, and raised there and in Nyasaland (now Malawi)where his father worked for the Standard Bank. He attended several boarding schools, including Falcon College in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), from which he ran away after being regularly caned. His first exposure to philosophical writing was at the age of twelve, when he found an English translation of the Charmides , one of Plato's dialogues, in a local library. At age fourteen, he read G. H. Lewes's Biographical History of Philosophy (1846), which confirmed his ambition to study philosophy; he said it "superinduced order on the random reading that had preceded it, and settled my vocation".
Luanshya is a town in Zambia, in the Copperbelt Province near Ndola. It has a population of 117,579.
The Standard Bank was a British overseas bank, which operated mainly in Africa from 1863 to 1969. It merged with the Chartered Bank in 1969 to form Standard Chartered.
Falcon College is an independent boarding school for boys and girls aged 12–18 in the southern Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe. It was founded in 1954 near Essexvale, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, 55 km southeast of Bulawayo on the remains of the Bushtick Mine. The college's graduates include a British member of parliament, surgeons and doctors, leaders of industry and commerce, soldiers and educators.
Grayling had two elder siblings, sister Jennifer and brother John.When he was 19 years old, his elder sister Jennifer was murdered in Johannesburg. She had been born with brain damage, and after brain surgery to alleviate it at the age of 20 had experienced personality problems that led to emotional difficulties and a premature marriage. She was found dead in a river shortly after the marriage; she had been stabbed. When her parents went to identify her, her mother—already ill—had a heart attack and died. Grayling said he dealt with his grief by becoming a workaholic.
Johannesburg, informally known as Jozi or Jo'burg, is the largest city in South Africa and one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. It is the provincial capital and largest city of Gauteng, which is the wealthiest province in South Africa. While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa's three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court. The city is located in the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills and is the centre of large-scale gold and diamond trade.
After moving to England in his teens, he spent three years at the University of Sussex, but said that although he applauded their intention to educate generalists, he wished to be a scholar, so in addition to his BA from Sussex, he also completed one in philosophy as a University of London external student.He went on to obtain an MA from Sussex, then attended Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was taught by P. F. Strawson and A. J. Ayer, obtaining his doctorate in 1981 for a thesis on "Epistemological Scepticism and Transcendental Arguments".
Grayling lectured in philosophy at Bedford College, London and St Anne's College, Oxford,before taking up a post in 1991 at Birkbeck, University of London, where in 1998 he became reader in philosophy, and in 2005 professor. In addition to his work on Berkeley, philosophical logic, the theory of knowledge, and the history of ideas, the latter including (as chief editor) the four-volume The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy, he wrote and edited several pedagogical works in philosophy, including An Introduction to Philosophical Logic (3rd ed., 1999) and the two volumes Philosophy: A Guide Through the Subject (1995) and Philosophy: Further Through the Subject (1998).
In his philosophical work, Grayling connected solutions to the problem of scepticism in epistemology with the questions about assertibility and the problem of meaning in the philosophy of language and logic. A principal theme in his work is that considerations of metaphysics, which relate to what exists, has to be kept separate from the two connected questions of the relation of thought to its objects in the variety of domains over which thought ranges, and the mastery of discourses about those domains, where a justificationist approach is required.
Grayling resigned from Birkbeck in June 2011 to found and become the first master of New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London. He is a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He was a judge on the Man Booker prize 2003and Chairman of the Judges for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. He has also been a judge on the Wellcome Trust Book Prize and the Art Fund prize.
Grayling was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to philosophy.
For Grayling, work on technical problems is only one aspect of philosophy. Another aspect, one which has been at the centre of philosophy's place in history, has more immediate application to daily life: the questions of ethics, which revolve upon what Grayling calls the great Socratic question, 'How should one live?'. In pursuit of what he describes as 'contributing to the conversation society has with itself about possibilities for good lives in good societies.' Grayling writes widely on contemporary issues, including war crimes, the legalisation of drugs, euthanasia, secularism, and human rights. He has articulated positions on humanist ethics and on the history and nature of concepts of liberty as applied in civic life. In support of his belief that the philosopher should engage in public debate, he brings these philosophical perspectives to issues of the day in his work as a writer and as a commentator on radio and television.
Among his contributions to the discussion about religion in contemporary society he argues that there are three separable, though naturally connected debates:
On this last point, Grayling's view is that for historical reasons religions have an inflated place in the public domain out of all proportion to the numbers of their adherents or their intrinsic merits, so that their voice and influence is amplified disproportionately: with the result that they can distort such matters as public policy (e.g. on abortion) and science research and education (e.g. stem cells, teaching of evolution). He argues that winning the metaphysical and ethical debates is already abating the problems associated with (c) in more advanced Western societies, even the US. He sees his own major contribution as being the promotion of understanding of humanist ethics deriving from the philosophical tradition.
Between 1999 and 2002 Grayling wrote a weekly column in The Guardian called "The Last Word", on a different topic every week. In these columns, which also formed the basis of a series of books for a general readership, commencing with The Meaning of Things in 2001, Grayling made the basics of philosophy available to the layperson. He is a regular contributor to The Guardian's "Comment is free" group blog, and writes columns for, among others, the Prospect and New Scientist magazines.
Grayling is accredited with the United Nations Human Rights Council, and is a patron of Humanists UK, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, patron of the Defence Humanists,was a Trustee of the London Library, and a board member of the Society of Authors and an Honorary Patron of The Philosophy Foundation, a charity whose aim is to bring philosophy to the wider community, and particularly to disadvantaged schools. In 2003 he was a Booker Prize judge and Chairman of the Judges for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. In 2005, Grayling debated with Christian philosopher William Lane Craig on whether God can exist in an evil world.
Grayling's book on the allied strategic air offensive in World War II, Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime? (2006) was well-receivedas a contribution to the debate on the ethics of war. In September 2010, Grayling was one of 55 public figures who sent a letter to The Guardian expressing their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK. In August 2014, Grayling was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.
A. C. Grayling was one of the contributors to the book, We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, released in October 2009.The book explores the cultures of peoples around the world, portraying both their diversity and the threats they face. Other contributors included not only western writers, such as Laurens van der Post, Noam Chomsky, Claude Lévi-Strauss, but also indigenous people, such as Davi Kopenawa Yanomami and Roy Sesana. The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organisation, Survival International.
In recent years Grayling has been campaigning to overturn the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum result. In his book, Democracy and Its Crisis, Grayling argues that voting systems must be reformed to prevent certain results, such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.Grayling has tweeted that Brexit must be made to disappear like a “nasty, temporary, hiccup, soon forgotten”.
Grayling lives in central London. His former wife, novelist Katie Hickman, and he have a daughter, Madeleine, and he has two adult children from his first marriage, Jolyon and Georgina.
Sir Alfred Jules "Freddie" Ayer, usually cited as A. J. Ayer, was an English philosopher known for his promotion of logical positivism, particularly in his books Language, Truth, and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956).
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also confessed that his sceptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense." Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.
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