Philosophical rumble: Mike Tyson vs A. J. Ayer

Monday, 8 October, 2012

A. J. Ayer Last week, a conviction for the rape of an 18-year-old woman in an Indianapolis hotel room in 1991 caught up with ex-boxer Mike Tyson and led to the revocation of the visa required to visit New Zealand. According to the New Zealand Herald, “The former heavyweight boxing champion was due to travel to Auckland in November before the authorities announced that he would be denied entry.” The purpose of the visit was a performance of the Broadway show about his troubled life, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. On being informed of the news, Tyson waxed philosophical: “Unfortunately that had to happen,” he said. “It’s one of those things in life that happens, it’s life on life’s terms and everyone has to deal with that and those uncertainties.”

The ex-champ’s first recorded brush with philosophy came in 1987 and involved Sir Alfred Jules Ayer, a British thinker known for his promotion of logical positivism. It is recounted in A.J. Ayer: A Life by Ben Rogers. Snippet:

“At yet another party he had befriended Sanchez [Fernando Sanchez, a fashionable designer famous for women’s underclothes]. Ayer was now standing near the entrance to the great white living-room of Sanchez’s West 57th Street apartment, chatting to a group of young models and designers, when a woman rushed in saying that a friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. Ayer went to investigate and found Mike Tyson forcing himself on a young south London model called Naomi Campbell, then just beginning her career. Ayer warned Tyson to desist. Tyson: ‘Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.’ Ayer stood his ground. ‘And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.’

Ayer and Tyson began to talk. Naomi Campbell slipped out.”

Ayer, who died in 1989, was 77 when he went up against Tyson, then 21. Logical positivism won the day. Meanwhile, Mike Tyson has branched out into the fashion business. Speaking in London at the recent launch of his new collection he sounded, again, philosophical: “If I had regrets, I wouldn’t have the purity of the happiness that I have now.” It’s a form of logical positivism.

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