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

Levi Asher
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A completely new approach to the ethics of Ayn Rand! "Ayn Rand deserves to be taken seriously, and she deserves to be seriously refuted", argues author Levi Asher, who offers to take on any Objectivist believers on purely logical grounds and prove that Ayn Rand was a flawed, if fascinating, philosopher.

Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters) lays out three arguments against Ayn Rand's doctrine of rational self-interest, all revolving around the meaning of the word "self". A naive and contradictory psychological understanding of the meaning of "self", according to Asher, is the weak link in Ayn Rand's chain of premises.

The author also argues that Ayn Rand's ideas deserve more respect and regard than they currently receive within the larger philosophy community, and suggests that those who disagree with her tend to rely on insult and caricature rather than reason and logic in their challenge to Objectivist dogma. Levi Asher -- like Ayn Rand, a lay philosopher who loves a structured debate -- hopes this innovative book will help bring about a better dialogue between the many smart people around the world who believe in Ayn Rand, and the many smart people who don't.

Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters) is a provocative, groundbreaking and bracing book for anyone who cares about ethics, philosophy and the work of Ayn Rand!

Here's Levi Asher explaining why he wrote this book on the Literary Kicks blog:

"I wrote Why Ayn Rand is Wrong (and Why It Matters) to fill a vacuum. I'm pretty sure it represents a completely original approach to the works of Ayn Rand.

There are a lot of smart people in the world who value Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, and there are also a lot of smart people who don't. This ought to be the making of a great public debate ... but the two sides don't debate.

Instead, they call each other names. Non-objectivists caricature Ayn Rand as a shrill proto-fascist and mock the enthusiasm of her fans. Her fans circle the wagons and remind each other that the world is full of cowards who can't handle Rand's clear thinking anyway. Both sides seem to just wish the other side would go away. This is how we treat a philosopher who dares to write with strength and originality?

I believe that Ayn Rand's ethical theories were completely wrong (thus, the title of my book). But I also know that she was one of the most popular and persuasive philosophers of the 20th century (the only other two in her class were Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jean-Paul Sartre). Her novels may have been melodramatic potboilers, but she stopped writing novels in 1957 and spent the next twenty-five years writing philosophical essays that were -- have you ever read one? you may be surprised -- sharp, witty and powerful. She deserves much more respect than she gets.

Ayn Rand's philosophy is also keenly relevant to our own age -- perhaps more relevant than it has ever been. A film version of her last novel Atlas Shrugged has just hit the screens. Within the Republican party and the Tea Party movement, Ayn Rand is often cited as a formative influence by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, his Presidential candidate father Ron Paul and GOP budget chief Paul Ryan, who is currently sponsoring a Republican budget bill that would defund Medicare while preserving tax breaks for billionaires.

I don't agree with Ayn Rand about much, and I don't agree with Tea Party conservatives or Republicans about much either. However, I always make it a point to respect the intelligence of anyone I disagree with. I'd rather explain exactly why I believe Ayn Rand's ethical philosophy to be logically flawed than stand back and sneer condescingly at her followers.

Because I am a proud liberal (with a philosophy degree) who does not desire a Randian style of government in the United States of America, I would like to engage with today's Objectivist community in a logical examination of the premises and implications behind the doctrine of rational self-interest.


Editorial Reviews

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: 154 KB
  • Print Length: 45 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1463778465
  • Publisher: Literary Kicks; 1.0 edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004WDYN4U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,112 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
149 of 171 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed -- lacks research (contains spoilers!) April 17, 2011
By Laurie
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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fundamentally flawed November 20, 2012
By Dathan
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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42 of 55 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Atlas Shrugged Again January 13, 2012
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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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and civil, but doesn't make the case April 11, 2012
By Rich H.
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Why taking rand seriously is seriously wrong.
So Rand writes:
"The pursuit of his own rational self interest... is the highest moral purpose of [man]'s life".

This is nonsense. Read more
Published 2 months ago by bill harris
2.0 out of 5 stars Who cared then and who cares now.
A has been. Why 17 and not 15? So it is 23 now. who cares,One to three four five six.
Published 5 months ago by Eric Glenn Eaton
1.0 out of 5 stars Asher does not obey his own rules
In the first chapter, LA exclaims how much he respects Ayn Rand's views and perspective. For Objectivists, this is seductive - it will lead them in. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Karl G. Kowalski
3.0 out of 5 stars Attacking the Wrong Assumption.
Mr. Asher starts off on the right foot, which is to disprove Ayn Rand's philosophy by demonstrating that it is based on an assumption for which there is no proof. Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. Bullard
1.0 out of 5 stars Save your money!
What a waste of eight dollars! This group of pages is not what an Ayn Rand reader would expect as an argument refuting her ideas of individuality.
Published 17 months ago by Michael A. Capodanno
4.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable thesis
Not so much here that I hadn't thought of already. What else is there to say. Need four more words.
Published 17 months ago by Ruth I. Orts
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother it's not worth it.
Unlike Rand, Mr. Asher has no idea what he's talking about. He doesn't even know his self so how could he comment on anything at all. Lame argument leads to a lame book.
Published 23 months ago by NorCal LN
3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title.
The first thing a potential reader should understand about this book is that it is absolutely NOT a criticism of Ayn Rand's philosophy. Read more
Published on September 26, 2012 by T. Blackstone
2.0 out of 5 stars the author hitch hikes
In his short paper, in an effort to promote his own phylosophy, the author has hitched hiked a world renowned name.
Published on September 7, 2012 by J. pless
3.0 out of 5 stars Faulty Premises, Good Clear Writing
Philosophers are powerful thinkers. They tend to lay out formidable arguments based on premises that are well defined and followed by consistent arguments. Read more
Published on August 27, 2012 by Alan Dale Daniel
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