Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  74 minutes
Date:  2012
Genre:  Interview
Language:  English
Grade level: 10-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
You must register and login to preview and purchase items.
You might also be interested in...

Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess

New to Docuseek2? Please register and login to preview and/or license this film. If your institution has already licensed this film, you will need to access this page from your institution's network to watch the film. For help on using Docuseek2, please visit our help wiki.

Analytic philosopher Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess, father of the deep ecology movement, discuss skepticism, fact, and truth.

Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess

The second debate is a lively conversation between British analytic philosopher Alfred Ayer and Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, the father of the deep ecology movement (a term he would coin shortly after this debate).

It begins with both men's thoughts about skepticism. They agree that a skeptical approach is useful, but differ on its limitations. A skeptical approach, Ayer says, should be tempered with common sense or 'natural belief.' For instance, he feels 'convinced beyond a reasonable doubt' that those watching the debate are not, in fact, robots, or about to suddenly transform into swans. That level of skepticism would lead to complete uncertainty and inaction.

Naess puts forward an approach he refers to as 'total view.' It is a philosophy that embraces interconnectedness, and which sees the wellbeing of all as contingent on that of each individual. Naess is firm on this point: if threatened with death, he would rather die than kill his attacker. Ayer dismisses the notion of total view as one without 'any useful application.'

The conversation moves to a discussion of the utility of the concepts of fact and truth. Naess says that a dismissal of fact runs counter to the British empiricist tradition, while Ayer believes they are essential in order to distinguish truth from falsehood.

Shot in an intimate setting, with the participants seated around a table - Ayer smoking the whole time - this debate highlights not only divergent philosophical approaches, but also distinct debating styles, with Ayer frequently on the attack, and Naess often using humor to quietly counter his points, foreshadowing many of the concerns that would drive the deep ecology movement.

See Series Page for purchase information

No reviews available.


Main credits

Elders, Fons (Producer)

Distributor credits

The Glass is On The Table

A film by Fons Elders

Docuseek2 subjects

Philosophy, Critical Thinking and Ethics
History of Ideas

Distributor subjects



Philosophy; Philosophers: Debates and Dialogues; Fons Elders; Alfred Ayer; Arne Naess; empiricism; Analytic Philosophy; deep ecology; International Philosophers Project; ; "Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess"; Icarus Films;

Welcome to Docuseek2!

Docuseek2 is a streaming platform of the best documentary and social issue films available for the higher education community.

Anyone may search for titles and find detailed information about the titles. To preview films or license them for streaming, you must register and login.

Currently, we support online registration for anyone affiliated with a higher education institution. Please inquire if you are with a K-12 district or school or with a public library.

Click the Close button to get started!