Antony Flew

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Professor Antony Flew

Professor Antony Garrard Newton Flew (born February 11 1923) is a British philosopher who has been connected with a number of right wing publications and think-tanks.


Flew was born in London in 1923, the son of a Methodist minister Rev. Dr R. N. Flew. He was educated at St. Faith's Preparatory School in Cambridge followed by Kingswood School in Bath. [1]

During the Second World War he studied Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and served as a Royal Air Force intelligence officer. After the war, Flew achieved a first class degree in Literae Humaniores at St John's College, Oxford. He was a graduate student of Gilbert Ryle, and one of the more prominent in a group identified with ordinary language philosophy.

He was a Lecturer in Philosophy at Christ Church, Oxford from 1949 to 1950, and followed this with four years as a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, and twenty years as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Keele. Between 1973 and 1983 he was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, and on his retirement took up a half-time post for a few years at York University, Toronto. [2]

Right wing activism

Like many other intellectuals Flew was alarmed by the emergence of the 'New Left' in the 1960s and the trade union activism of the 1970s. He became closely associated with the right's counter offensive and was involved in several think-tanks that emerged from the mid-70s onwards advocating the deregulation of business, the cutting of public services and the curtailment of trade union power, as well as the development of a more repressive state apparatus.

A good example of Flew's hostility to popular movements comes from a letter he wrote to The Observer in May 1963. Following the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's march to Aldermaston, The Observer had reported research by National Opinion Polls finding that 57 per cent of the inhabitants of Greater London were in favour of the marchers’ aims. Flew wrote to the paper complaining that respondents were probably not aware of the true aims of CND: ‘They may all too easily have overlooked that what crucially distinguishes the C.N.D. from most of the rest of us, is not as its title suggests, a desire for nuclear disarmament but, what it conceals, that the C.N.D is prepared to have us (and the West as a whole) disarm unilaterally. It is of course, this aspect of the C.N.D which commends it to the Communist World!’ [3]

In 1975 Flew joined a new conservative organisation called the Dicey Trust, named after the influential British constitutional lawyer A. V. Dicey. The group was set up to ‘encourage the rule of law’ through lectures and presentations at schools and colleges. [4] It was set up by, among others, the barrister Francis Bennion and Conservative MP Rhodes Boyson. Aside from Flew, other members of the Trust included Gerald Howarth, who would later become a Conservative MP. Howarth and Bennion were also members of Freedom Under the Law, an organisation first formed to counter the anti-apartheid movements and its boycott campaigns in particular. After the launch of the Dicey Trust, Howarth told the press that he and his collaborators were ‘alarmed at the number of young people who seemed to predominate in movements which were unconstitutional.’ He referred to a ‘steady drip technique being used to threaten the rule of law’ and ‘a systematic attempt to discredit the police.’ [5] The Guardian said the Trust would apply for charitable status and that it hoped to raise £100,000. Another prominent right wing intellectual Max Beloff later became Chairman of the Trust in 1980.

From 1975-1977 Flew was a member of a study group behind a report published in 1977 by the intelligence connected Institute for the Study of Conflict alleging a Marxist penetration into British academia. [6] Considering the ideological orientation of the study group, The Observer commented that: ‘The study group seems to believe with Professor Hayek and his disciple, Sir Keith Joseph, that true liberty is possible only in a capitalist, free market civilisation.’ [7]

The Times reported the report’s findings that: ‘radical minorities...often disagreed with each other, but they had a common distaste, bordering at times upon sheer hatred for the liberal, tolerant society in which they moved.’ [8] The Times published extracts of the report, but also criticised it as having an ‘alarmist tone which goes beyond [the main author's] evidence.’ [9]

During that same period Flew also became involved in a number of influential neoliberal think-tanks which, as Dicey Trust Chairman Max Beloff put it, "undoubtedly helped to make collectivism unrespectable again." [10] Flew was a founder member of the Education Group of the Centre for Policy Studies (founded in 1974), the Council of the Freedom Association (founded in 1975), and the Academic Council of the Adam Smith Institute (founded in 1977). [11]

In the late 1980s Flew became an active vice-president of the Western Goals Institute, a pressure group opposed to immigration and free trade, and supportive of apartheid. Flew was also a committee member of Majority Rights, alongside Ray Honeyford and Tim Janman. He has contributed to Right Now! magazine, the Salisbury Review, and publications of the Libertarian Alliance, the Social Affairs Unit, the Society for Individual Freedom and the Institute of Economic Affairs.

In 1995 Flew authored a report for the Adam Smith Institute criticisng GCSE exams for being too easy, and recommending the reintroduction of O-levels. Flew proposed in the report a '10-point plan' to 'revitalise and lead to vital improvements in the education system.' [12]

Flew is currently a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the right wing think tankCivitas. [13]


  • A New Approach to Psychical Research (1953)
  • New Essays in Philosophical Theology (1955) editor with Alasdair Macintyre
  • Essays in Conceptual Analysis (1956)
  • Hume's Philosophy of Belief (1961)
  • Logic And Language (1961) editor
  • God and Philosophy (1966)
  • Logic & Language (Second Series) (1966) editor
  • Evolutionary Ethics (1967)
  • An Introduction to Western Philosophy - Ideas and Argument from Plato to Sartre (1971)
  • Body, Mind and Death (1973)
  • Crime or Disease (1973)
  • Thinking About Thinking (1975)
  • Sociology, Equality and Education: Philosophical Essays In Defence Of A Variety Of Differences (1976)
  • Thinking Straight (1977) (ISBN 978-0-87975-088-6)
  • A Dictionary of Philosophy (1979) editor, later edition with Stephen Priest
  • Philosophy, an Introduction (1979)
  • Libertarians versus Egalitarians (c.1980) pamphlet
  • The Politics of Procrustes: contradictions of enforced equality (1981)
  • Darwinian Evolution (1984)
  • * The Presumption of Atheism (1976). reprinted as God, Freedom and Immortality: A Critical Analysis. (1984)
  • Examination not Attempted in Right Ahead, newspaper of the Conservative Monday Club, Conservative Party Conference edition, October 1985.
  • God: A Critical Inquiry (1986) - reprint of God and Philosophy (1966) with new introduction
  • David Hume: Philosopher of Moral Science (1986) Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • Agency and Necessity (Great Debates in Philosophy) (1987) with Godfrey Norman Agmondis Vesey
  • Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? The Resurrection Debate (1987) with Gary Habermas
  • Power to the Parents: Reversing Educational Decline (1987)
  • Prophesy or Philosophy? Historicism or History? in Marx Refuted, edited by Ronald Duncan and Colin Wilson, Bath, (UK), 1987, ISBN 0-906798-71-X
  • Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Parapsychology (1987) editor
  • God, A Critical Inquiry (1988)
  • Does God Exist?: A Believer and an Atheist Debate (1991) with Terry L. Miethe
  • Anthony Flew [ Academic Purposes and Academic Freedoms], Educational Notes No. 6, London: Libertarian Alliance, 1991.
  • A Future for Anti-Racism? (Social Affairs Unit 1992) pamphlet
  • Atheistic Humanism (1993) (ISBN 978-0-87975-847-9)
  • Thinking About Social Thinking (1995)
  • Education for Citizenship (Studies in Education No. 10) (Institute of Economic Affairs, 2000)
  • Merely Mortal? (2000)
  • Equality in Liberty and Justice (2001) Transaction Publishers.
  • Does God Exist: The Craig-Flew Debate (2003) with William Lane Craig (ISBN 978-0-7546-3190-3)
  • Social Life and Moral Judgment (2003)
  • God and Philosophy (2005) - another reprint of God and Philosophy (1966) with another new introduction
  • There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007) with Roy Abraham Varghese (ISBN 978-0-06-133529-7)


  1. ‘FLEW, Prof. Antony Garrard Newton’, Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008
  2. ‘FLEW, Prof. Antony Garrard Newton’, Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008
  3. Letters to the Editor, The Observer, 5 May 1963
  4. 'Trust to back rule of law', The Guardian, 11 March 1975 pg. 7
  5. ’Trust to back rule of law’, The Guardian, 11 March 1975 pg. 7
  6. ‘Gould report calls for rebuttal of attacks on education in Britain by extreme radicals’, The Times, Wednesday, Sep 21, 1977; pg. 4; Issue 60114; col A
  7. Bernard Crick, ‘Red sails on the campus’, The Observer, 25 September 1977
  8. 'Marxists attacking education', The Times, Wednesday, Sep 21, 1977; pg. 1; Issue 60114; col E
  9. ’The Enemies of Liberty’, The Times, Wednesday, Sep 21, 1977; pg. 15; Issue 60114; col A
  10. Lord Beloff, 'Tories must confront a painful paradox', The Times, 23 August 1993
  11. 'FLEW, Prof, Antony Garrard Newton', Debrett's People of Today (Debrett's Peerage Ltd, November 2007
  12. 'Right wing's 10-point plan for schools', The Independent, 19 April 1995
  13. Civitas, About Us, (accessed 27 January 2009)