by Marc Eliot Stein Friday, January 29, 2016 05:54 pm
After using a pen name for 21 years, I suddenly realize I don't want to carry it around anymore.
"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 condescendingly 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. As a rule, Objectivists value rational argument, and a rational argument is what this book delivers."