Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: Atlas Shrugged, This is John Galt Speaking
Posted on 07/18/2009 7:32:31 AM PDT by Publius
A sleeping Dagny is awakened by Jim, who barges in with terrifying news. Having had his fill with the attempted takeover of his steel mill by murderous thugs, Hank has disappeared, taking his top people with him. In Jim Taggarts panicked opinion, it is desertion, a fatal blow to the countrys morale, or at least to the ability of the ruling class to maintain control, which to him is one and the same. We know where Rearden has gone, and so does Dagny, who will not move to bring him back.
The Mainstream Media take a series of positions, all obviously directed by the government. First they declare Hank to be a traitor. Then they say that the loss of one person is unimportant because the individual is of no significance to society. Then the party line changes to Hank dying in a car crash.
A week after Hanks disappearance, Dagny receives a letter with no return address mailed from a small town in Colorado. It is from Hank.
I have met him. I dont blame you. H.R.
The reference is to Galt, of course. Dagny has avoided the terminal tunnels, but her examination of the payroll records shows that John Galt has in fact been working under her very nose for the past twelve years. She sees his home address in the records and struggles not to go to him. His presence in the tunnels had been her motor through those days, just as his presence in the city had been her motor through the months of that summer, just as his presence somewhere in the world had been her motor through the years before she ever heard his name. Now she feels as if her motor, too, has stopped.
America has degenerated into anarchy with each rebellion ending only in further destruction. Trains are attacked in four western states. There are rebellions where local officials are overthrown and tax collectors are murdered. There are warlords, chaos. States secede and collectivize everything in sight, only to fail within a week, and the Army has hardly been forced to fire a shot to restore order. The media refuse to report any of it. Orren Boyle suffers a nervous breakdown and goes into seclusion.
The only thing that can save them now is a radio broadcast? Even if the Powers That Be no longer control the country, they do control the media, and its the best shot they have. Head of State Thompson decides to address the nation. Every radio and TV station and poster in America advises the people to listen to this most important speech on the national crisis.
Jim tells Dagny that Thompson wants her to go to the New York studio to attend a conference that will precede his speech. For the third time in the book, Dagnys presence is commanded, this time accompanied by a large police officer to act as her bodyguard. Dagny, with Eddie and Jim in attendance, goes to the studio where she sees Thompson, Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, Chick Morrison, Tinky Holloway, Dr. Floyd Ferris, Dr. Simon Pritchett, Emma Chalmers, Fred Kinnan, Mr. Mowen and Dr. Robert Stadler. The old academics face now reflects his history, seamed with guilt that has congealed into hatred. In fact there is no conference. As the radio plays military marches, the attendees take their places for a propaganda photo to show the solidarity of science, business, labor and industry behind the government. Dagny tells Thompson she will not participate in this farce. They are at least bright enough not to stick a microphone in her face again.
A technician informs the men that something has gone horribly wrong; they are off the air all over the country. They are being jammed, and he cant identify the source.
Precisely at 8 PM, the voice of John Galt takes over the nations airwaves as he begins The Speech. Dagny recognizes the voice, and so does a horrified Eddie Willers he knows that voice all too well from his meals in the Taggart corporate cafeteria.
For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing, I am the man who will now tell you.
We and the listening country -- Thompson, like our own detestable autocrats, has pre-empted regular programming -- are now the rapt audience for a 60 page rant against the sitting government and a disquisition on a new moral philosophy. It is decidedly not the general run of evening entertainment, and if the country had, as is likely, responded with a collective turn of the power switch, the novel would have ended rather abruptly. It did not, possibly out of curiosity, possibly out of desperation, possibly because there wasnt a beer and a good book within handy reach. In any case, it is time to consider the contents of the speech.
It is certainly an odd thing to pop up in the middle of a novel, a gigantic boulder against which the dramatic flow breaks and ebbs, an enormous pothole into which the little train of the narrative descends with a crash, a joyless, aggravating, self-righteous, angry denunciation wherein the speaker informs his audience that it is starving because it is unworthy of his standards. We should forgive a station engineer for reaching in desperation for a re-run of Hollywood Squares.
It is also, however, a statement of first principles and an ethical manifesto. It is, at last, Galts turn before the proscenium. Hes waited long enough.
We are grateful to Dr. David Kelley for his invaluable outline of the speech, available for perusal on the Objectivist Center website (www.objectivistcenter.org). It is, frankly, not an easy thing to find the structure, and if certain critics have treated it as a stream-of-consciousness blast against the status quo, it isnt entirely unjustified. That is not to say that Rand simply tossed it off in a single evening of passionate writing far from it, she originally budgeted three months for the construction of Galts speech and it ended up taking her two years. That is an awfully long time in which to produce 60 pages of text, and the result is tight enough to offer considerable resistance to being pulled apart into its constituent components.
Galt speaks about moralities what he terms the Morality of Death, which is, under various descriptions and interpretations, the moral code, ages old, that has led the country to disaster; the Morality of Life, which is that of free men and women interacting in transaction, value for given value, an approach that is equally old but has been ruthlessly suppressed for reasons that Galt will detail; and at last What Is To Come, life under a new moral code that will provide the structure under which the phoenix will rise from the ashes of a shattered and ruined society.
Each of these is worthy subject matter for an analysis far more reaching than the limitations of this medium will allow, and so we will not attempt any categorical criticism of the philosophy behind it but attempt to stick to principal themes and try to pin them to the shoulders of the giants that Rand disdained to stand upon. As we have complained in the past, none of these things, either the principles or the difficulties, are unprecedented in the annals of Western philosophy, and as one might expect, Rand is led down a few false paths in her machete-work through the jungle in search of a clearing.
Its a manifesto, to begin with. Karl Marx began his with A specter is haunting Europe, and the specter that is haunting America in Atlas Shrugged is along those same lines: starvation, exploitation, a breakdown of a societal model that has run its course, those in charge of it having subverted it to their own ends and now clutching at the disintegrating fabric with an iron hand. And from its wreckage a new one is to be born, predicated on new moral propositions, a new ideology. Rand is not a conservative in any real sense, she is a revolutionary, utopian radical and the difference between her and Marx and Engels, whom she despised, is the nature of the moral code that is to build her new society. Let us first examine the Morality of Life.
The Morality of Life
Galt presents the foundational philosophical propositions for this moral code. These, as we have seen in the titles of the main sections of Atlas Shrugged, are taken from Aristotle: non-contradiction, the exclusion of the middle (either-or), and identity (A is A). Rands philosophical foundation rests on an objective reality, a something that is out there and that it is the function of mans mind to apprehend. Existence exists, is her pungent summation. In fact, Leonard Peikoff stated that she would have preferred existentialism to objectivism as a descriptive term but that it was already taken. Rands moral code, then, rests on the propositions that (1) there is something independent of mans existence that it is the function of his mind to apprehend and order, and that (2) it is reason that is the specific function of the mind that offers a provable, consensual view of the universe, and that (3) the rules of relations between people morality depend on an agreement on facts that is only attainable by reason; morality is therefore dependent on mans mind, and that any system that denies that mind is either falsely moral or openly immoral.
Galt states, You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social, i.e., Church and State, respectively, and his is a third way, Reason. Each of the two former is based on the concept of sacrifice, the notion that an individual life is not only measurable merely in the context of its relation with God or fellow men, but necessarily subordinate to them and ultimately to be discarded in their favor. That it is to be discarded at all sacrificed is the proposition Rand challenges.
A moment for an important point it is, in theory, the God of Adam or the god of Marx, the Collective, that makes this demand, but in fact it is men who make that demand in their names, and in doing so spread the corruption that has plagued the world. The underlying morality is of Death, and its proponents are murderers.
Underneath this flow of verbiage is an attempt to reprise a good deal of Western philosophy, and the result is dense enough to make for difficult reading. Rands definitions now pelt us like hail, terms are tossed about like straws in a tornado -- and are just about as easy to catch -- and the real-world reader becomes as impatient as the fictional radio listener must have been. Within the short space of ten pages we are told that reason, purpose and self-esteem are three fundamental values that imply the virtues of rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride. All of these abstractions are so heavily dependent on definition that they become nonsense in its absence and obsessive in its presence. What, for example, are we to make of such over-polished gems as the law of causality is the law of identity applied to action? That sort of thing is more at home in a graduate philosophical seminar than on a radio broadcast to a seething nation.
There are two classic requirements of any logical system first, that it is self-consistent or free of internal contradiction; and second, that it succeeds in mapping its logical propositions to observed reality, that it fits the evidence. Rands ethical system here is long on internal consistency, and depends strictly on her narrative to represent its mapping to the real world; that is the consequence of attempting to present a philosophy in novel form. What is most fascinating about Atlas Shrugged is that there are times when the narrative, finely developed as it is, isnt particularly cooperative. It is no act of postmodern textual deconstruction, but of simple observation, to point out once more that there is a distinct tension between narrative and philosophical system, and that any serious consideration of Rands opus either must resolve these or conclude that by her own standards that one or the other of these, her premises, is in error.
We will delve a little deeper into the Morality of Life when we come to consider Galts way forward out of all of this mess. Let us now consider his characterization of the morality that gave rise to the Twentieth Century Motor Company debacle and to the looters rioting at Reardens gates: the Morality of Death.
The Morality of Death
This consists of two parts, which we shall consider separately that of the social, the State, and that of the mystical, the Church, exemplified by Marxist socialism and Christian theology respectively. In brief we suggest that her understanding of the former was exquisitely precise, both from theoretical study and up-close observation of a Marxist revolution; and that her appreciation of the latter is somewhat less so for similar reasons, lack of close observation. Let us attempt to show why.
there are two kinds of teachers of the Morality of Death: the mystics of spirit and the mystics of muscle ... The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he beyond mans power to conceive definition that invalidates mans consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society a thing which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a super-being embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general except yourself. Mans mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God. Mans mind, say the mystics of muscle, must be subordinated to the will of Society.
The Mystics of Muscle
Galts, and Rands, objections to the socialist approach are illustrated in the story of the Twentieth Century Motor Companys fall from a state of capitalist grace to the depths of envy-soaked socialist hell, through the precept of from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, a precept that even practicing Marxists gave up after Lenin nearly lost control of the nascent Soviet Union by attempting its practice. As we have cited elsewhere, Trotsky evaded the issue by explaining that the people simply werent ready for that yet, not in an advanced enough state of class consciousness, his form of a state of grace. That would require a New Soviet Man, raised in a state of superior education toward class consciousness. It is a signature problem of utopian systems, Platos to Marxs, and Rands itself is no exception: the system turns out to be a fairyland that may only be populated by fairies, the existence of either being contingent on the existence of the other. We may wish to recall this stipulation when we come to consider the world as Galts Gulch writ large.
The moral foundation of collectivism means this to Galt:
your code hands out, as its version of the absolute, the following rule of moral conduct: If you wish it, its evil; of others wish it, its good this double-jointed, double-standard morality splits mankind into two enemy camps: one is you, the other is all the rest of humanity. You are the only outcast who has no right to wish or live. You are the only servant, the rest are the masters, you are the only giver, the rest are the takers, you are the eternal debtor, the rest are the creditors never to be paid off. Their right is conferred upon them by a negative, by the fact that they are non-you.
The answer of the classical socialist, that its all right because everyone is in this position, does not resolve the objection at all. It is in this sense that collectivism cannot allow the individual; Rand is very clear and very persuasive on this point. She is a radical individualist. The demand on the part of others that one live ones life for their benefit does, in every final analysis, demand the death of the individual, and that is why Rand thunderously rejects it.
And, in practice, the Collective, the State, always turns out to be an abstract concept populated by concrete individuals the elite, the cadre, the New Class who are in it for themselves despite whatever rhetoric they employ to the contrary. So it was at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, so it is under socialism the individual does not die, he simply becomes crippled, paranoid, petty, and eventually destructive of everyones interests including his own. He does not die; he simply turns into something contemptible.
A morality that holds need as a claim, holds emptiness non-existence as its standard of value; it rewards an absence, a defect: weakness, inability, incompetence, suffering, disease, disaster, the lack, the fault, the flaw the zero.
The less than zero, technically, although well cede Rand the point. It is the social manifestation of the Morality of Death. Let us now examine the second one, the Church, or rather Rands conception of it.
The Mystics of Spirit
Rand was a celebrated atheist, having set the terms of reality such that to be considered real, any of its manifestations, whether a pebble or God, must be observable by multiple individuals and logically testable in the sense that the earlier Logical Positivists had termed falsifiability. God fails to meet these standards. As someone positing that the highest standard of life is an individuals own reason, this for Rand was conclusive. That there might be tests outside reason was an argument she spent a great deal of energy refuting true or not, it led to observable abuses that meant that the manipulative non-producers, the clergy, could deny reason altogether and consolidate power in the pursuit of the mystical. It was her conception of the Church. In some important respects it was John Calvins as well: that its undeniable spiritual virtues had been subordinated to the demands of temporal power by men unworthy of them. It is Calvins view of Original Sin that Rand has appeared to adopt as categorical, a topic we will address momentarily.
But from there their paths diverged sharply Calvins path toward predestination, Rands toward free will, and to maintain the supremacy of free will she was willing to discard God Himself. Rand must have free will; it is a basic Objectivist axiom without which her system does not work. And so she must present fate as a construct, an illusion.
That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call free will is your minds freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character thinking is mans only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of ones consciousness, the refusal to think not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance but the refusal to know
But where from there? For this does not disprove, but merely denies, the proposition that all acts of men are fated, that we all are trapped into a fabric previously woven and only think that we have the ability to move, warp to weft. It is in that context that Rand expresses Atlas Shruggeds single instance of what she conceives of as formal Christian doctrine:
Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demanding that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin. A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. To hold, as mans sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold mans nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice, and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.
A masterly summary, that, of one of the great and earliest schisms of the Christian church, one that is pivotal in Western history for nearly fifteen hundred years. Rand is walking in the pathway trod by the great before her. Her words could have been spoken, and something very like them were, by an individual named Pelagius in the Fourth Century AD, an early Church father whose most influential rival in theory was Augustine of Hippo, a converted Gnostic who insisted that Original Sin meant that man was inherently imperfectible (in this life) due to the transmission of the sin of Adam the partaking of the knowledge of good and evil through his descendants. Rand, and everyone else who reads that passage, considers what was gained through that act of disobedience to describe the very essence of man. Galt continues:
The evils for which they damn [man] are reason, morality, creativeness, joy all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of mans fall is designed to explain and condemn, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love he was not man.
One might think from this that Rand has refuted Genesis; in fact, it is only an indication that she appreciates the issues therein. She isnt the first by far. Is this idea of Original Sin a condemnation of man, or merely a description? An image, or an act of justice? The key is what she terms volition free will. And the degree to which it is instrumental in the description of man is the topic that set Pelagius and Augustine at one anothers throats.
The two men did not settle it between them, although Augustine came out on top for a time. And yet by the time of the Reformation there had slowly evolved a general consensus within the Church that, in fact, the doctrine of Original Sin meant not that man was inherently sinful but that he was inclined that way, not that he was guilty of anything by the mere act of being born, but that the possibility of sin was open to him. Certain of the Church fathers Origen, Ignatius, Justin Martyr came to a position perfectly compatible with Rands, if only her philosophical studies had brought her to that realization.
Certain others did not. The interpretation that Galt identifies as yours is, in fact, that of Calvin, who embraced the doctrine of Original Sin after what to him seemed centuries of desuetude. For him it is that inherent nature that required the redemption of Christ. But it is, for Rand, an offense against free will, impermissible because it implies that volition is illusory, that man is, in fact, what she termed derisively a robot.
Here Rand is retracing a truly critical path in Western philosophy. Did she realize it? Certainly the classes she took in Petrograd under N.O. Lossky should have given her the necessary background. She graduated from her studies in 1924, which places her in a front-row seat to observe the advent of Soviet communism and its immediate effects, which she painted for us in miniature in Starnesville, Wisconsin. But possibly she did not most philosophy curricula then and today avoid a thorough assessment of ground covered by the Church fathers mentioned here who are known collectively as the Medieval Schoolmen, a complaint made most loudly by, of all people, that unrepentant old atheist Bertrand Russell, for whose guidance in the matter we are profoundly grateful. It is very fertile ground indeed. Aristotle reached us through these men, and one wonders if Rand completely appreciated that. Perhaps not there are indications that Rands grasp on history was not quite up to her grasp on philosophy. For example:
The infamous times you call the Dark Ages were an era of intelligence on strike, when men of ability went underground and lived undiscovered, studying in secret, and died, destroying the works of their mind, when only the bravest of martyrs remained to keep the human race alive.
This is, actually, nonsense. The giants of intellect that were the Schoolmen struggled over the same issues that outrage Rand during this specific period, men whom she disparaged as mystics for their faith in a God she cannot reach by reason. One reason the formal philosophical community has offered Objectivism less respect than perhaps it might deserve is Rands dismissal of this monumental intellectual progress without understanding it. It cost her a great deal of time, effort and credibility.
Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Sixteenth Century Europe seethed with this controversy. Seventeenth Century Europe burnt nearly to the ground over it. Then came the Enlightenment and a fellow named Immanuel Kant who bears a considerable resemblance to Rand in terms of the philosophical issues with which he came to grips, and with whose work she was very familiar and whose conclusions she rejected. If one wishes to place Rands philosophy in real-world chronological terms, this might not be a bad place for it. It is at the birth of capitalism, the emergence of the individual new economies, new political philosophies are about to create a New World. The only sense in which we may call Rand a conservative is that these precepts are hers, and the social revolution she advocates will, she hopes, bring us back into accordance with them.
She takes her place in the rise of individualist thought that has continued to this day. Enlightenment political philosopher John Lockes basic premise is that the proper repository of political rights is within the individual, which is, for Rand, the proper repository of morality also. Economist Ludwig Von Mises later proposed that the individual is the proper repository of economic activity as well. These three facets of individualism constitute the core of Rands approach to her new society. This is very serious business, and despite the length of Galts speech, Rand touches on it fairly lightly. Those seemingly interminable 60 pages turn out to be too short for the subject.
Did this foundation of Objectivism really belong here in a work of fiction? One is tempted to state that the novel could have done very well without it most of the principles have already been stated in one form or another by one or another of her characters, hero and villain. The narrative flows around it quite satisfactorily. It is there because without it the rest of the novel wouldnt have existed.
What is to Come
To finish Galts speech What is to Come, the necessary conclusion of any political manifesto. Lenins What is to be Done? finishes Marxs it delineates the steps by which a core of ideological leaders must take control of the inchoate and unshaped forces of revolution. Rand could have slipped so very easily into this model after all, she has an elite, already fiery-eyed with moral certitude, a core, a cadre why not make them the new ruling class? Galt as Philosopher-King, Dagny as Queen Regnant it is, in fact, precisely what Mr. Thompson and the rest of the present ruling class will expect after the last echoes of this speech reverberate across the country.
Well, it isnt going to work like that -- first, because the rules are going to change. No more of the model of producers and leeches, vampires and victims. The sanction of the victim has been withdrawn in favor of objective truth. Freedom starts there.
Just as man cant succeed by defying reality, so a nation cant, or a country, or a globe. A is A. The rest is a matter of time
The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike...Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish." -- C.S. Lewis
So long as men, in the era of savagery, had no concept of objective reality and believed that physical nature was ruled by the whim of unknowable demons no thought, no science, no production were possible. Only when men discovered that nature was a firm, predictable absolute were they able to rely on their knowledge, to choose their course, to plan their future, and slowly, to rise from the cave
Such was the service we had given you and were glad and willing to give. What did we ask in return? Nothing but freedom free to think and to work as we choose free to take our own risks and to bear our own losses free to earn our own profits and to make our own fortunes free to gamble on your rationality, to submit our products to your judgment for the purpose of a voluntary trade, to rely on the objective value of our work and on your minds ability to see it
And no less, and no more, will be demanded in the new world to rise from the ashes of the old.
I am speaking to those who desire to live and to recapture the honor of their soul. Now that you know the truth about your world, stop supporting your own destroyers. Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies terms or to win at a game where theyre setting the rules Do not attempt to rise on the looters terms Go on strike in the manner I did. Do not try to produce a fortune, with a looter riding on your back. Do not help them to fake reality
The honor of their soul we know exactly what Rand means, although one is led to wonder what would happen should she subject the existence of that soul to the same scrutiny she accords the existence of God. Such a proof would at best be inferential, self-evident, and her villain, the nihilist Pritchett, doesnt find it so. Man is, we recall him stating, merely a collection of chemicals. And yet he is a collection of chemicals that spans chasms with bridges, continents with railroad tracks. That is Rands evidence for the existence of soul.
Galt concludes with his vision of the future:
When the looters state collapses, deprived of the best of its slaves, when it dissolves into starving robber gangs fighting to rob one another when the advocates of the morality of sacrifice perish with their final ideal then and on that day we will return. We will open the gates of our city to those who deserve to enter, a city of smokestacks, pipelines, orchards, markets and inviolate homes With the sign of the dollar as our symbol the sign of free trade and free minds we will move to reclaim this country once more from the impotent savages who never discovered its nature, its meaning, its splendor.
In short, the strike is to continue, only now it will include the entire country. Here for the first time we understand that not only industrial magnates and persons of outstanding entrepreneurial ability are capable of this sort of moral conduct, but that everyone is Rand calls this the best that is within you. Galts Gulch is a gated community in a literal sense the world to come will not be.
You will win when you are ready to pronounce the oath I have taken at the start of my battle: I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
And now the real import of that oath is clear: that it is the individual, not the collective or the mystical, neither State nor Church; it is the individual who is Atlas, who will shrug, who will pick up the shattered pieces of the world once it hits the hard surface of reality, who will assemble them once again into the world that is to come. It is a nation of individuals, and not a collective, that will emerge.
Discussion Topic: Dissecting The Speech
To Rand, self-esteem was something quite different from the current Cult of Self-Esteem in that it had to be earned; it was, in fact, a result of ones status as a moral human being and not a precursor. It is interesting to note that her lover and follower Nathaniel Branden carved a career in psychotherapy out of this important aspect of human personality. Rand would find it characteristic, as Branden has not, to see that twisted into a false meaning in popularization in the same way that she portrayed Richard Halleys concerto twisted and cheapened into film music by Mort Liddy.
Discuss each of these sacrifices in the light of Rands exposition of philosophy. Has she characterized these truly as opposing poles? Is there room in between for compromise? How could compromise be attained?
Once more, Rand has described her belief that the false doctrines of Church and State leave no room for the individual. To what extent is this a fair characterization?
This is, to say the least, a rather exceptional definition of sacrifice. For Rand, the exchange of something one values for something one values more does not qualify as sacrifice a mothers exchange of her life for her childs, for example, a soldiers for his country. True to her individualist tendencies, she argues that it is the individuals decision as to what constitutes sacrifice. Is this too restrictive of a definition in order to bend the concept to her theories? Is sacrifice invalidated when it is at the behest of a third party, Church or State, instead of an individuals decision? Is her definition of sacrifice even valid? Why, or why not?
This, outside of the confines of a course in philosophy, seems a bit dated. On the contrary, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, It isnt what you dont know that is the problem, its what you do know that isnt so. The modern classroom is plagued not by a firm adherence to uncertainty as a principle, but unquestioning adherence to principles that suffer from a lack of uncertainty, from a lack of serious questioning. Unquestioned, these constitute a body of knowledge Rand would not differentiate from religious faith: multiculturalism, diversity, sustainability, to give three contemporary examples. Suggest others patriotism, globalism, environmentalism and discuss them in the light of Rands insistence on objective truth.
This seems embarrassingly similar to the modern belief in entitlements. What are the foundations of an individuals call on society for any of these basics?
Does Rand really mean issue here, or logical proposition? Discuss the difference between the two.
Here Rand appears to reject the demand made by one individual upon another individual by virtue of their mutual membership in some sort of common collective. Was John Donne wrong, then, when he wrote that No man is an island? What are the limits of any individuals demand on another? At what point must that aid demanded be refused on principle?
Where is there a conflict between property rights and human rights? What might it look like? To what degree are property rights, in fact, human rights?
Here perhaps we notice a similarity to the Preamble of the Constitution: to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense. But what does Rand mean by objective law?
Gang, tribe class? Political party? How close is this to a fair statement of the politics of identity? Is this the inevitable consequence of the source of political rights being vested in the collective rather than in the individual? Why should this be so?
Here is the basis on which Rand has been labeled a conservative. Is it, in fact, accurate? Or is Rand simply using this to disguise her utopian scheme for the future under a mythical past? Is there even a difference, and if so, what is it?
I'll tell you a little secret about how to read it. When you encounter a character, write down his or her full Russian name and the relationship to one or another character. That makes it all clear as you go on.
I think I could read it now. As I said, I’ve read the first chapter several times and on each occasion, I had no recollection of it. Now I do know what happens in the first chapter. I’ll try it again. Thanks.
I’ve enjoyed this entire project. I’m looking forward to the discussion of the Federalist Papers.
Please add me to your ping list.
The U.S. Constitution limits the kinds of laws which may be enacted by the central government, but within those bounds the power to enforce them is granted, and it is not a power to merely ask for voluntary compliance.
Likewise state constitutions, and down the line.
Derived by consent of the governed, but force nonetheless.
Then it is their loss, indeed.
Thank you both for a fine series — I have been looking forward to every Saturday since you began this most interesting and stimulating exercise!
I’ve mostly lurked, but feel vastly more enriched, despite the paucity of my comments. AS is one of my favorite books — I have read it numerous times since it was first published. Wore out my paperback copy to the point that my first ex-wife bought me a bound version. (Yes, I read it in High School in 1957! As did a number of my FRiends.)
Thanks to your hard work, I have a better insight into Ms. Rand and her philosophy. Not only that, her prescience re: the events of our day is stunning: scared me then and it scares me now. No wonder many Americans have a renewed interest in her writings and philosophy.
On another subject, you might consider dissecting Saul Alinsky’s works and thereby help all of us discover what our enemies are up to. His playbook seems to be mighty popular in Washington, DC right now.
HST, the Federalist Papers and the historical context thereof would also make for a most excellent exercise.
I like that idea, a lot. Second choice would be a contemporary work such as The 5,000 Year Leap.
Whatever comes next, I must again express my appreciation for the FR Book Club series. It has made much better what would have been a tedious read.
Thank you for the very cogent and understandable explanation. I appreciate the new knowledge and also its tie in to the book.
I’m really leaning toward the study of Progressives - because our govt is full of them and we need to know what they think and how they think - so we can stop them.
I’ve also found a paper titled “Principles of Progressive Politics” .. and it will curl your hair .. and as Glenn Beck says, “... make blood shoot right out of your eyes.”
Let me remind everyone on this thread of something. The second amendment is still in effect. If you allow yourself to be sold into slavery while still armed then you deserve it.
Future non-fiction discussions: “Peter the Great” or “Dreadnought,” both by Robert Massey.
William Shirer’s classic “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Brilliant history and a lot of parallels to the current direction of our country.
Fiction: Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” “Time Enough for Love,” “The Past Through Tomorrow.”
For some lengthy but great literature: Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserable.”
I write, both for reading and for the spoken word. This speech was designed to be read, not spoken.
That's pretty funny. Ayn and the feminists were bitter enemies.
She was a huge fan of Aristotle (as the three divisions of the book imply) and the skeleton in her closet was St. Thomas Aquinas. She was actually going to have a character in the book called Father Amadeus but her contempt for religion nixed it.
My guess is they weren’t mean and nasty enough for her.
Modern Times by Paul Johnson, The Law by Bastiat, Witness by Whitakker Chambers, Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke, The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk and (if you could possibly find it) Conservatism from John Adams to Churchill by Peter Viereck. (Just MHO.)
Or the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut.
She was a self-described man-worshipper and held them in contempt for their collectivist view of women.
She was a real creep. She told her husband in front of others that she was going to have an affair with one of his friends, and there was nothing he could do about it. She did it, too.
Publius is chuckling - he knows I have a special weakness for Burke. It wouldn't be easy breaking that one up into sections but it'd be fun. I'm thinking at last I'd have the last word against Conor Cruise O'Brien...well, because he's been dead for the last eight months... ;-)
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