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Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality: A Critique of Ayn Rand's Epistemology Paperback – January 27, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Scott Ryan has been a musician, a mathematics teacher, a writer, a database production editor, a husband and father, and a libertarian gadfly. He holds a master's degree in mathematics and has had a lifelong interest in philosophy. At the time of this writing (2003) he is working toward a professional law degree, intending to specialize in intellectual property law, cyberlaw, and alternatives to litigation. He lives in Silver Lake, Ohio, with his family.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (January 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595267335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595267330
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,618,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Reverend Aaron on June 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Objectivism's intellectual bankruptcy has led to there being few worthwhile critiques. This book is about as good as I've seen, even though it does at times devolve into psychobabble and ad hominem. These are fine techniques within the sphere of objectivism, but in the wider world it's not enough. Even so, I'd recommend it before moving on to the other options.
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59 of 95 people found the following review helpful By merjet on February 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Ryan says he admires Brand Blanshard. In an online article he chides Ayn Rand fans to learn about graciousness from Blanshard. He does not emulate Blanshard with this book. He is the opposite of gracious to Ayn Rand. The book is full of derisive remarks like "Rand failed to consider ... ", "she carelessly thought ...", "she wasn't entitled to think ...", and all her ideas simply stem from a "fear of religion." He regularly and ungraciously misrepresents her, e.g. having her perceive an abstraction (p. 48). Witness the title. It's not 'Objectivism and Rationality'.

Much of the book is about the theory (or problem) of universals. Ryan raises the topic repeatedly, beyond annoyance. He claims it is an ontological, not an epistemological problem. Wrong, it's both. He asserts Rand is a nominalist in ontology but a moderate realist in epistemology. How can that be if the theory of universals is, as he says, only ontological? I offer two reasons. First he confuses the two aspects. Second, he portrays her that way to try to make her look ridiculous. He calls Ayn Rand's solution an "optical illusion."

He claims Rand didn't understand the problem. Given what Ryan writes about it, she understood it better than he does. He says he agrees with Blanshard on universals. However, Blanshard's position is far from Ryan's own confused one he calls "realist", and Ryan's use of "generic universals" and "specific universals" does not match Blanshard's. I think Ryan fails to understand Blanshard's theory.

Blanshard rejected the Platonic theory and the Aristotelian theory, both realist. He rejected "generic universals" (Reason and Analysis, IX, 28, 29, 34) and non-specific, qualitative universals for lack of sameness (RA, IX, 14). Ryan does not.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bill Pennock on April 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
It seems the key concept of the book is that our absolute reality and perceptions of absolute reality are dependant on each other. It is stated very clearly in the Afterword. I think that if you read this book with the understanding the Ryan discounts the fundamental belief that reality exists in and of itself and all of our perceptions, categorizing, abstracting, formulations, etc. do not change that fundamental fact, then you will get some interesting arguements out of the book. It is very tiresome though to continually hear that the belief that reality exists trivializes any philosopher that believes in it. Once you argue that your mental constructs are part of reality you are free to build just about any complex architecture you want. This, then, allows you to create mental constructs that are nearly incoherant when matched with a real perceivable world but, if you don't believe that world actually either exists without your construct or can be perceived accurately and therefor discounted, you can look like a great thinker. Since it's complex, some people think it is then automatically smarter. Ok, your free to your thoughts. I believe the simplest answers are most likely the truest and I certainly do not believe that my thinking is somehow superior to reality. Reality is, my job as a rational person, is to figure out how to make sense of that which is there regardless of my sense of it.
There are some interesting challenges Ryan would make to whomever thinks Ayn Rand was infallible. She does seem to have an almost fanatical obsession with casting as many behaviors as possible in the light of self interest only. "I don't want you to think I'm giving this to you for your benefit, it's for my benefit only", "I wouldn't accept it if I thought that".
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95 of 157 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, I will be condemned by the general readers of this book for disagreeing with it. The truth of the matter, however, is that this book is simply opinion backed up by the will to believe, and is not rational.
Ryan attempts to insert a metaphysical argument into the thematic countering of Rand's philosophy, which is akin to violating the "Rule of Negation." Simply put, since Ryan's own definitions of rationality, reason, and objectivism can not be "disputed" by rational argument, they can not be used to judge anything.
Summed up, Ryan is just saying "Man, I don't like libertarians or what they stand for, so let me tell them how their beliefs don't fit MY definitions." No [kidding], Jack. You may as well choose to define words such as kind, good, nice, and bad, then tell readers how certain acts do not qualify as one or the other because they do not fit your definition.
The book is very well written, very well studied, very well researched, unfortunately the premise is simply flawed. Mr. Ryan's personal definitions are created to serve his purpose.
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142 of 237 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
I bought this book with the hope of descovering an interesting and innovative view of Ayn Rand. But after reading it, and researching Ryan on the web, I can find no reason to recommend this book to anyone, novice or advanced practioner.

Rather than a critical analysis of the work of a great author and philosopher, Ryan seems intent on anihilating every aspect of her life, or as a previous writer coments, deconstructing Ayn Rand. Even more, I found his mocking, disrespectful tone toward Ayn Rand to be unnecessary and childish, and his use of the omniscient voice--in replication of Rand--to be without the requisite talent, ability, and great experience she had in the world.

Further more, he attempts to defeat Rand by use of the negative, which I find very revealing in a psychological sense--one choosing to spend so much time trying to expose negatives rather than creating a positive vision of one's own. Also, by not identifying with her fight against the prevailing culture, he doesn't seem to understand what she was trying to do in the world, and doesn't understand the entirely hostile culture she had to fight against and the enormity of the battle, something that would effect anyone at anytime.

Yes, Ayn Rand made mistakes, and when you accept that, one can appreciate the world-moving vision she gave the world, and her unrelenting defense of the individual's right to live his or her life by their own rational vision. Like many libertarians, Ryan refuses to accept the need for a philosophical foundation for a free society, and his attempted defense of altruism by defining it, as helping others, shows a reluctance to understand what Ayn Rand was saying in regards to altruism as the foundation for communism, fascism, and religious fanaticism, as we see with Al Queda.
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