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Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters) Kindle Edition

2.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Length: 45 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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About the Author

Levi Asher founded Literary Kicks, one of the most popular and enduring literary websites on the Internet, in 1994 while working as a software developer on Wall Street. A constant innovator at the intersection of web culture and alternative literature, he has launched a number of unique projects including Queensboro Ballads (a story cycle in the form of a 1960s folk-rock album), Coffeehouse: Writings From The Web (the first anthology of web writing published in book form, in 1997) and Notes From Underground (a digital movie based on the Dostoevsky novel). Asher has also published a poetry chapbook, Tiger's Milk, and frequently performs at poetry readings around New York City and elsewhere.

Product Details

  • File Size: 155 KB
  • Print Length: 45 pages
  • Publisher: Literary Kicks; 1.0 edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Publication Date: April 12, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004WDYN4U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #686,698 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You'll only agree with this author if you agreed with him before you read his essay; he's not going to persuade anyone with Objectivist leanings and here's why:

Two Senses of Self is really just a semantical argument. What do we mean when we say "self"? If you already know who you are and where your nose ends and someone else's begins, you can skip through this, Objectivist. Oh, and don't be sucked in by the paragraph about the people in the car at the beginning -- it's got nothing to do with what he's really saying, just a foreshadowing for ...

The Case Against Egoism. This is where he discusses how people can act as a group or collective, subordinating individual needs and opinions to work for the higher good. He fails to recognize that when individuals do this, they are still working for their *individual* good. He seems never to have read Ayn Rand's discussion of how people can hold certain values (truth, justice)in such high esteem that they can die for them, and how that is not a contradiction of rational self-interest but an extension of it. I am surprised that he's missed these discussions since they are all over Objectivist literature. Also, he's never writing about "rational self-interest"; he's writing about egoism. They are not the same things and he's missed this entirely! I don't know how if he's read and studied Ayn Rand as extensively as he's claimed.

A Shot In The Arm -- This is a sophistical discussion of empathy and how it must mean something important about our connectedness as human beings if we can feel each other's pain, etc. I guess the idea that I can be I -- alone -- and yet still connected through various important commonalities to other separate individuals is too complicated a concept to be admitted here.
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Format: Paperback
I'm always interested in a logically-based retort to Rand -- the normal insult-hurling goes nowhere -- so I was excited to examine what is pitched as a careful analysis. Well, I'm a bit poorer and that's about it. Punch line: The author attempts to challenge Rand by positing that self means anything from a person to the universe, depending on the context, and therefore either Rand's arguments are meaningless due to arbitrary scope of context, or that she uses a limited and unrealistic definition of self - that individual self is an ideal that does not exist practically, and therefore Rand is useless in the real world.

Do yourself a favor: accept the author's position that he doesn't exist as an individual self and save your money.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've got a confession to make: I've never read Ayn Rand's doorstopping novels, with their Soviet Realist cover art and Nietzsche-on-acid philosophy. What I've read about Rand and her truly cult-like followers is mostly unappealing, and gave me no appetize to engage in the works themselves. Yet Rand is such an influence on the contemporary US political scene that interested onlookers simply cannot ignore her; So far I've avoided tackling one of the biographies of the Objectivist Prophetess, and so this slender tome seemed like an especially pain free apperatif.

I was wrong; Although I'm no more sympathetic to Rand's philosophy or politics than Asher is, his attack on her rings hollow to my ears. Asher fails to either do justice to Rand's philosophy, nor to effectively dispute it. Rather he makes some vague New Age-y arguments about personality and empathy. If I were an objectivist, I doubt I would've lost any sleep over this attack.

Asher's main (indeed, only) attack on Rand is on her doctrine of Egoism, which he sorts of describes, by quoting her, as the view that all people do live for their own selves, and not for others. Strangely, in the passage quoted Rand refers to this as a Normative statement ("the pursuit of his own rational self interest... is the highest moral purpose of [man]'s life"), but Asher ascribes to her a belief in Egoism as a Positive fact ("Importantly, psychological egoism is not a statement about how we should live, but rather a description of how certain psychologists think we do live").

So which is it? And crucially, what role does the doctrine of Egoism play in Rand's philosophy? Everyone is wrong about some things; Even if Asher manages to unravel one of Rand's beliefs, does this undermine the whole of her philosophy?
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5 Comments 45 of 58 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being an interesting critique of Ayn Rand's philosophy, by a gentleman who clearly enjoys playing in the epistemological sandbox.

For the record, I'm neither Objectivist or altruist; although my sympathies tend towards the former, imho Rand's anarcho-capitalist Utopia ultimately fails for the same reason Marx's anarcho-collectivist version did: it doesn't fit human beings. Asher touches on a few of the reasons why in this essay (and misses a few), but his main thrust seems to be that Rand's central principle of egoism is simply wrong. He makes several good points - along with a number of rather weak ones - but ultimately his own arguments point toward a theory of egoism that is incomplete, rather than invalid. There's nothing at all wrong with this; only hardcore Randroids assert that there is no room for improvement in Objectivism. It's rather disappointing, therefore, that Asher didn't even try to go in that direction, preferring instead an unsuccessful attempt to refute egoism altogether.

Asher does deserve a great deal of credit in one regard: penning a critique of Rand that is cool, calm, and respectful. This may make Asher's essay unique in its category; every other work of this sort I've encountered has been a frothing-at-the-mouth ad hominem rage-fest. Asher's essay, flawed as it is, actually adds to the discussion, and so is worth reading. Three stars for the content, plus one for the unexpected civility.
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