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Antony Flew

Professor of Philosophy, York University, Toronto
1923 to 2010

Philosopher Antony Flew was born 11 February 1923, the son of a Methodist minister. He attended Kingswood School in Bath. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force, studying Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies from 1942 to 1943, before joining RAF Intelligence until the cessation of hostilities in 1945.

After the war he studied philosophy, winning a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford, and graduating with a first in greats. Flew was awarded the university’s John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy in 1948. He did his PhD research under Gilbert Ryle and regularly debated with C. S. Lewis.

After two years as a lecturer in philosophy at Christ Church, Oxford, he moved to the University of Aberdeen where he was a lecturer in moral philosophy (1950-1954). He became a professor of philosophy at the University College of North Staffordshire (Keele University) in 1954, and moved to the University of Reading in 1983. After retirement in 1982, Flew took up a part-time post at York University, Toronto. He gave the 1986–1987 Gifford Lectures, titled "The Logic of Mortality," at the University of St Andrews.

During his career Flew held positions as vice-president of the Rationalist Press Association, chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and a fellow of the Academy of Humanism.

Although Flew’s work dealt with many subjects, such as evolutionary ethics, psychic phenomena, logic, education, crime and egalitarianism, he was most noted for his atheism, which he said began in his teens. In the 21st century he at first held fast to his beliefs despite much discussion fueled by Internet debate. However, in 2007, he published There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, about which debate still rages.

Flew was a vice-president of the Rationalist Press Association, chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and a fellow of the Academy of Humanism.

He died 8 April 2010 and is survived by his wife, Annis Harty, and two daughters.

His publications include Theology and Falsification (1950), A New Approach to Psychical Research (1953), Logic and Language: First Series (as editor, 1955), New Essays in Philosophical Theology (as editor with Alasdair MacIntyre, 1955), Essays in Conceptual Analysis (1956), Hume's Philosophy of Belief (1961), God and Philosophy (1966), Evolutionary Ethics (1967), An Introduction to Western Philosophy: Ideas and Argument from Plato to Sartre (1971), Body, Mind and Death (1973), Thinking about Thinking (1975), The Presumption of Atheism (1976), Sociology, Equality and Education (1976), A Rational Animal (1978), Philosophy, an Introduction (1979), God, a Philosophical Critique (1984), God, Freedom and Immortality: A Critical Analysis (1984), Darwinian Evolution (1984), God, A Critical Inquiry (1988), Atheistic Humanism (1993), Philosophical Essays of Antony Flew (1997), Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist! (2001), Social Life and Moral Judgment (2003), and There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007).

  • Therese Boyd