Freddie ayer

The identical twins who captivated literary London

The dazzlingly beautiful identical twins Mamaine and Celia Paget were born in 1916 and brought up in rural Suffolk – not the greatest springboard, you would think, for lives at the intellectual heart of the mid-20th century. Yet the list of their friends reads like a roll call of literary notables: Dick Wyndham, Peter Quennell, Cyril Connolly, Bertrand Russell, Sacheverell Sitwell and Laurie Lee. Between them, the twins were proposed to by, among others, Arthur Koestler and George Orwell; had liaisons with Albert Camus and the formidably clever Oxford philosopher Freddie Ayer; quarrelled with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; and received love sonnets from the historian and poet Robert

The women who challenged a stale, male philosophy

Metaphysical Animals tells of the friendship of four stellar figures in 20th-century philosophy — Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot — who attempted to bring British philosophy ‘back to life’. Fuelled by burning curiosity — not to mention chain-smoking, tea, wine, terrible cooking and many love affairs (sometimes with each other) — they tackled an ancient philosophical question: are humans a kind of animal or not? Dazzled as we are these days by technological possibility, their question only gains in urgency. This splendidly entertaining book, fizzing with character and incident, constitutes an extended joyful reply in the affirmative. Others would disagree. Humans are rational and animals aren’t,