A. C. Ewing

Alfred Cyril Ewing (/ˈjɪŋ/; 11 May 1899 – 14 May 1973), usually cited as A. C. Ewing, was an English philosopher and a sympathetic critic of idealism.[2]

A. C. Ewing
Alfred Cyril Ewing

(1899-05-11)11 May 1899
Leicester, England
Died14 May 1973(1973-05-14) (aged 74)
Manchester, England
Alma materOxford University
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic idealism
Epistemic coherentism[1]
Main interests
Notable ideas
Contemporary formulation of the coherence theory of justification[1]


Ewing studied at Oxford, where he gained the John Locke Lectureship and the Green Prize in Moral Philosophy. He taught for four years in Swansea/Wales, and became lecturer in Moral Science at Cambridge in 1931, based at Trinity Hall, and reader in Moral Science in 1954. He was an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and one of Wittgenstein's foremost critics.

He was responsible for Karl Popper's invitation to Cambridge.[3] Ewing was an attendee of the Moral Sciences Club and was present at the infamous Wittgeinstein poker incident.[4]

Ewing was viewed negatively by some with Maurice Wiles stating "You felt you were back in school. It was very depressing. He always had a worked out answer to everything" and Professor Michael Wolff calling him a "drab little man".[3]

Georg Kreisel recollects that Ewing wore heavy boots around due to a fear of getting wet and described him as someone who looked like someone who still lived with his mother, which he did.[3]

Ewing was a deeply religious and serious person. On one occasion A.J. Ayer asked him what he was looking most forward to in the afterlife, Ewing responded that God would tell him if there was synthetic a priori.[5]

Philosophical work

Ewing believed that the study of the history of philosophy was important to philosophical practice, and paid particular attention to this in his studies of Kant.

He was a defender of traditional metaphysics (as opposed to post-modern ethics) and developed what has been termed an "analytic idealism".[6] He was a 20th-century pioneer in the philosophy of religion, one of the foremost analysts of the concept "good", and a distinguished contributor to justificatory theorizing about punishment.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1941 to 1942,[7] and he was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1941.

Wittgenstein and Ewing were rivals, with Ewing stating he did not understand a word Wittgeinstein said and Wittgenstein jibing during a lecture on solipsism that "Let us make the purely hypothetical assumption that Ewing has a mind"[8]


  • Value and Reality: The Philosophical Case for Theism (George Allen & Unwin, London 1973)
  • Non-linguistic Philosophy (George Allen & Unwin, London 1968)
  • Second Thoughts in Moral Philosophy (London 1959)
  • The Idealist Tradition: From Berkeley to Blanshard (editor, London 1957)
  • Ethics (London 1953, ten reimpressions)
  • The Fundamental Questions of Philosophy (Routledge, London 1951)
  • The Definition of Good (Routledge, London 1947)
  • The Individual, the State, and World Government (Macmillan, New York 1947)
  • Reason and Intuition (London 1941)
  • A Short Commentary on Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (London 1938)
  • Idealism: A Critical Survey (New York 1936)
  • The Morality of Punishment (London 1929)
  • Kant's Treatment of Causality (London 1924)


  1. Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  2. Edmonds and Eidinow 2001, p. 67.
  3. Wittgeinstein's Poker, page 67
  4. Wittgenstein's Poker, 268
  5. Wittgeinstein's Poker, page 67-68
  6. Michael Beaney (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 5. n. 6.
  7. https://www.aristoteliansociety.org.uk/about/the-council/
  8. Wittgeinstein's Poker, page 68


  • Bernd Goebel (2010). "A. C. Ewing". In Bautz, Traugott (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 31. Nordhausen: Bautz. ISBN 978-3-88309-544-8.
  • Bernd Goebel (2014). "Einleitung". In Alfred Cyril Ewing: Ethik. Eine Einführung (Felix Meiner, Hamburg), vii–lxvii (contains a section on Ewing's life and works and a section on Ewing's moral philosophy). ISBN 978-3-7873-2469-9.
  • Edmonds, D., Eidinow, J. Wittgenstein's Poker. New York: Ecco 2001.
  • A C Ewing Papers at University of Manchester Library.
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