Two new books about Atlas Shrugged


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While on my visit to the Atlas Society office I was able to look at Younkian's books about Atlas. Since I have a copy of the Mayhew book from ARI a comparison is in order.

I definitely want to get the Younian's book but some of the material looks similar. It is great to see good literary discussions of Atlas.

Edited by Chris Grieb
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Thanks Chris on the books. I have to start buying the books from the last 15 years that I have been out of the inside loop.

There is an article that I posted tonight by the Duke Classics Professor that is devastatingly objective.

Adam

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Chris G,

I strongly recommend Ed Younkins' book on Atlas Shrugged.

Truth in advertising requires me to disclose that I wrote one of the chapters. But, IMHO, the quality and the variety of contributions to the book are both impressive.

Robert Campbell

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  • 5 months later...

Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

Robert Mayhew, editor

(Lexington 2009)

One contribution to this collection is Michael Berliner’s “The Atlas Shrugged Reviews.” He “describes the generally hostile nature of the reviews the novel received, and underscores that this hostility came as much from the Right as it did from the Left” (x). Yes, after reading my first Rand novels, I went to my university library and looked up her name in those helpful big green books Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Smear after smear.

The first contribution in this collection is from Onkar Ghate on the Part headings and Chapter headings of Atlas. He marches straight through the novel, explaining what happens in the story making each heading appropriate. Very nice (51 pages) and it adds up to a summary of the novel.

Two essays were contributed by Gregory Salmieri. The first is titled “Atlas Shrugged on the Role of the Mind in Man’s Existence.” His focus is on what the novel says about the role of the mind in an individual life,* rather than on what it says about the role of the mind in society as a whole. The subheadings of this essay are: The Human Form of Consciousness / The Productive Faculty / The Valuing Faculty. This is a masterful fresh rendering.

Professor Salmieri also contributed “Discovering Atlantis – Atlas Shrugged’s Demonstration of a New Moral Philosophy.” He writes: “Dagny and Rearden in particular are convinced by a complex train of reasoning extended over the years in which the novel is set—a chain of reasoning that both arises from and gives rise to the actions that constitute the novel’s plot. This train of reasoning is Atlas Shrugged’s demonstration of a new moral philosophy, and one needs to follow it in order to fully appreciate the novel either as a work of literature or as a work of philosophy. My project here is to outline this progression and to highlight some of its most important developments, bringing out the order in which the principles are established and some of the relations between them.” (398)

This volume of essays will be the subject of an Authors-Meet-Critics session of the Ayn Rand Society at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association on April 3, 6:00-9:00 p.m. The Meeting is at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. The critics will be Christine Swanton, Lester Hunt, and William Glod. The responding authors will be Onkar Ghate, Allan Gotthelf, and Gregory Salmieri.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Glory of Man

I first read Atlas Shrugged in fall term of 1967. I was a sophomore in college. During the summer, I had read The Fountainhead, my first exposure to Rand’s fiction and Rand’s ideas. (Page numbers before the semicolon are for the paperback Signet edition of Atlas; those after are for the first edition of the Random House hardback.)

Immediately, I liked:

Dagny (20–25; 12–18)

Rearden (33–38; 26–32)

Francisco (93–112; 94–113)

Galt (652–55; 702–5)

My favorite scenes are four:

1. The First Run of the John Galt Line

“The lights, hanging on a signal bridge against the sky, were green. There were green lights between the tracks, low over the ground, dropping off into the distance where the rails turned and a green light stood at the curve, against leaves of a summer green that looked as it they, too, were lights.” (228; 239)

to

“She watched the bridge growing to meet them—a small, square tunnel of metal lace work, a few beams criss-crossed through the air, green-blue and glowing, struck by a long ray of sunset light from some crack in the barrier of mountains. . . . She heard the rising, accelerating sound of the wheels—and some theme of music, heard to the rhythm of the wheels, kept tugging at her mind, growing louder. . . .” (236; 247)

2. The Crash into the Valley and the Awakening to Galt in Full Sunlight

“She was back at the wheel, she was speeding down the runway, she was rising into the air, her plane like a bullet aimed at two low sparks of red and green light that were twinkling away into the eastern sky.” (646; 693)

to

“. . . as if his faculty of sight were his best-loved tool and its exercise were a limitless, joyous adventure, as if his eyes imparted a superlative value to himself and to the world—to himself for his ability to see, to the world for being a place so eagerly worth seeing. . . . as if he, too, were seeing the long-expected and the never-doubted.” (652; 701–2)

3. John and Dagny, Each to Each

“Then she stopped. It was his eyes and hair that she saw first. . . . She saw John Galt among the chain gang of the mindless. . .” (885; 954)

to

“. . . that nothing more could be desired, ever.” (888; 957)

4. The Deliverance of Rearden

“Silence was his only sensation, as he sat at the wheel of his car, speeding back down the road to Philadelphia. It was the silence of . . .” (916; 987)

to

“The glare of steel being poured from a furnace shot to the sky beyond the window. A red glow went sweeping slowly over the walls of the office, over the empty desk, over Rearden’s face, as if in salute and farewell.” (927; 999)

My favorite philosophical passage is:

“By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.” (941; 1014)

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From Fountainhead to Atlas

Rand wrote in The Fountainhead that the power of the creator is a power “self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated” (737). Human creation is necessary for survival and for raising humankind ever higher (737–39). As a primary life force, the creator lives primarily for himself, and his creations are “his goal and life” (737, also 740).

The creative process is a function of the individual reasoning mind. Creation is individual thought, vision, feeling, strength, courage, and judgment. All of these are functions of the individual self, the ego (F 659, 737–40).

The virtues of the creator in Fountainhead are: independence, creative achievement, loyalty to reason, and integrity, which includes courage (737–40). (I should mention that the conception of creative achievement Rand is putting forth as an ideal includes heights intending to delight customers [581–82].) The choice of independence or dependence “rests upon the alternative of life or death” (739–40). “The code of the creator is built on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive” (740).

Within the virtues of the extraordinary creator (such as Howard Roark) are the virtues of good people in general. Rand continues: “Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence, initiative, and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man” (F 740). For every good individual, honesty, courage, and basing one’s self-respect on “personal standards of personal achievement” are virtues (658). For every human being, to suspend one’s faculty of independent judgment is to suspend consciousness, and “to stop consciousness is to stop life” (659).

Happiness requires truly personal desires. It requires self-motivation. It requires a self-sufficiency in one’s spirit, a self-sufficient ego, which is selfishness (F 559–60).

When we turn from Fountainhead to Atlas, we find Rand’s ethical thought fully developed. Seven moral virtues are articulated, for all individuals: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride. Here the virtues are argued not only upon a characterization of the kind of individual who makes human existence possible—the individual self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated—but upon a characterization of all life preceding and supporting rational, volitional life: organism-life as “a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action” (AS 1013).

Value comes into the world only by the emergence of organisms out of inanimate chemicals (AS 994, 1012–13, 1016). Every organism’s life is “a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil” (AS 1012–13).

“Every living species has a way of survival demanded by its nature” (AS 1014). That goes for plants, insects, and right on up to man. A fish cannot live out of water, a dog cannot live without its sense of smell, and neither can a man survive any-which-way-whatever. Man has an identity, a nature. Man’s life is made possible only by thinking and achievement (AS 1014–15). Correct virtues—whether peculiar of an extraordinary creator, or peculiar of an excellent practitioner of a particular profession, or common for all good persons—correct virtues are actions by which one gains or keeps correct values (AS 1012). The correct actions and correct values pertinent to every individual are those judged by the standard of Man’s Life to “the purpose of preserving, fulfilling, and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life” (AS 1014).

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have summarized above Rand’s basics of ethics as displayed in The Fountainhead, then her basics of ethics as developed further in Atlas Shrugged. One contribution in the collection Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is by Darryl Wright. The title of his essay is “Ayn Rand’s Ethics: From The Fountainhead to Atlas Shrugged.” This essay alone is worth the price of the book.

From the conclusion of Wright’s essay:

“What can we say overall about the development of Ayn Rand the moral philosopher in the period spanning the publication of her two greatest novels? The theme that runs through each of the topics we have considered is our profound need of morality. It is her conclusion that we would need morality even on a desert island that prompts her shift from taking independence to taking rationality as the primary virtue. It is her recognition of the indispensability of moral ideals that motivates her concern with spiritual exploitation and her critique of altruism. And it is her quest for the deepest philosophical justification of the thesis that we need morality to live that drives her to one of her most important insights—that the very idea of ‘value’ is inconceivable apart from the concept and phenomenon of life.” (271)

In tracing Rand’s development of her ethics between ’43 and ’57, Wright uses the two novels themselves, but in addition, he uses (i) Rand’s draft material for a non-fiction work not completed, titled The Moral Basis of Individualism, and (ii) Rand’s notes for Atlas. Notice, when you read Wright’s essay, how Rand is rising above the Greeks in her rise in ethical theory from Fountainhead to Atlas.

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Chris G,

I strongly recommend Ed Younkins' book on Atlas Shrugged.

Truth in advertising requires me to disclose that I wrote one of the chapters. But, IMHO, the quality and the variety of contributions to the book are both impressive.

Robert Campbell

Younkins' book is one of the first books that I would cite in a response to answer the liberal/MSM media reviewers that no academics take Ayn Rand or Objectivism, seriously. The most impressive academic study remains Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.

"Oh, really?" Then drop one of these books onto their desk.

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Stephen, I particularly enjoyed post #5. Your four favorite scenes are well-chosen.

For me, I would add to this list, not so much a scene but an evocative, emotional passage: the description of "the Concerto of Deliverance".

Edited by Philip Coates
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  • 4 weeks later...

I mentioned in #5 that Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged will be the subject of an Authors-Meet-Critics session of the Ayn Rand Society at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association on April 3, 6:00-9:00 p.m. The Meeting is at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. The critics will be Christine Swanton, Lester Hunt, and William Glod. The responding authors will be Onkar Ghate, Allan Gotthelf, and Gregory Salmieri.

Further details of this session are these:

Prof. Swanton will discuss Prof. Salmieri’s contribution “Atlas Shrugged on the Role of the Mind in Man’s Existence.”

Dr. Glod will discuss Dr. Ghate’s contribution “The Role of Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged” and Prof. Gotthelf’s contribution “Galt’s Speech in Five Sentences (and Forty Questions).”

Prof. Hunt will discuss Salmieri's “Discovering Atlantis: Atlas Shrugged's Demonstration of a New Moral Philosophy” and Gotthelf's “A Note on Dagny's ‘Final Choice’.”

The title of Lester Hunt’s paper is “Dagny’s Motivation.” I found it very thoughtful and fresh. However, it was bleak for me to read:

“I don't think anyone has ever told me their favorite character is John Galt. If someone ever did, my first thought would be that they might have misunderstood the question. ‘I didn't mean “which character do you think is the most perfect person, in terms of talent, moral virtue, and achievements?” but something more like “which one do you, personally, think of with the most fondness?”’

Galt was my favorite character. I read the novel through three times only, over a period of about three years. On the first reading, Galt could not become my favorite until he was revealed at the opening of Part III of the story. On the second reading, his presence, and me knowing it, is there all along, moving in the shadows until the sunlight. In that second reading, he was positively electric for me. By the third reading, he had become an old friend.

It is a kind of mind and purpose, you see—a kind of intense, rich, and sweeping consciousness. Fondness for such a character? Yes, the greatest.

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I mentioned in #5 that Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged will be the subject of an Authors-Meet-Critics session of the Ayn Rand Society at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association on April 3, 6:00-9:00 p.m. The Meeting is at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. The critics will be Christine Swanton, Lester Hunt, and William Glod. The responding authors will be Onkar Ghate, Allan Gotthelf, and Gregory Salmieri.

Further details of this session are these:

Prof. Swanton will discuss Prof. Salmieri’s contribution “Atlas Shrugged on the Role of the Mind in Man’s Existence.”

Dr. Glod will discuss Dr. Ghate’s contribution “The Role of Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged” and Prof. Gotthelf’s contribution “Galt’s Speech in Five Sentences (and Forty Questions).”

Prof. Hunt will discuss Salmieri's “Discovering Atlantis: Atlas Shrugged's Demonstration of a New Moral Philosophy” and Gotthelf's “A Note on Dagny's ‘Final Choice’.”

I should join together here what I have mentioned in previous posts concerning some contributions in Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

One contribution to this collection is Michael Berliner’s “The Atlas Shrugged Reviews.” He “describes the generally hostile nature of the reviews the novel received, and underscores that this hostility came as much from the Right as it did from the Left” (x).

The first contribution in this collection is from Onkar Ghate on the Part headings and Chapter headings of Atlas. He marches straight through the novel, explaining what happens in the story making each heading appropriate. Very nice (51 pages) and it adds up to a summary of the novel.

Two essays were contributed by Gregory Salmieri. The first is titled “Atlas Shrugged on the Role of the Mind in Man’s Existence.” His focus is on what the novel says about the role of the mind in an individual life, rather than on what it says about the role of the mind in society as a whole. The subheadings of this essay are: The Human Form of Consciousness / The Productive Faculty / The Valuing Faculty. This is a masterful fresh rendering.

Professor Salmieri also contributed “Discovering Atlantis – Atlas Shrugged’s Demonstration of a New Moral Philosophy.” He writes: “Dagny and Rearden in particular are convinced by a complex train of reasoning extended over the years in which the novel is set—a chain of reasoning that both arises from and gives rise to the actions that constitute the novel’s plot. This train of reasoning is Atlas Shrugged’s demonstration of a new moral philosophy, and one needs to follow it in order to fully appreciate the novel either as a work of literature or as a work of philosophy. My project here is to outline this progression and to highlight some of its most important developments, bringing out the order in which the principles are established and some of the relations between them.” (398)

One contribution in the collection Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is by Darryl Wright. The title of his essay is “Ayn Rand’s Ethics: From The Fountainhead to Atlas Shrugged.” This essay alone is worth the price of the book.

From the conclusion of Wright’s essay:

“What can we say overall about the development of Ayn Rand the moral philosopher in the period spanning the publication of her two greatest novels? The theme that runs through each of the topics we have considered is our profound need of morality. It is her conclusion that we would need morality even on a desert island that prompts her shift from taking independence to taking rationality as the primary virtue. It is her recognition of the indispensability of moral ideals that motivates her concern with spiritual exploitation and her critique of altruism. And it is her quest for the deepest philosophical justification of the thesis that we need morality to live that drives her to one of her most important insights—that the very idea of ‘value’ is inconceivable apart from the concept and phenomenon of life.” (271)

In tracing Rand’s development of her ethics between ’43 and ’57, Wright uses the two novels themselves, but in addition, he uses (i) Rand’s draft material for a non-fiction work not completed, titled The Moral Basis of Individualism, and (ii) Rand’s notes for Atlas.

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I do not have the book Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion.

Roger Bissell has reported on one of its contributions intriguing to me here:

Douglas B. Rasmussen, one of my fellow Iowans and college friends, now a professor at St. Johns University in NYC, wrote "The Aristotelian Significance of the Section Titles of Atlas Shrugged: A Brief Consideration of Rand's View of Logic and Reality." He says that Rand fails to "fully appreciate the difference between logic and reality and as a result becomes entangled in some serious conceptual knots." In particular, because she does not clearly enough define the good, she leaves herself open to criticism that her view is "dangerously close to a Kantian approach to moral epistemology." He and I have discussed this and other points made in his paper, and I am not fully in agreement with him, but I think his perspective is well worth considering.

In addition to that contribution, the titles of the following sound especially interesting to me:

“Various Levels of Meaning in the Chapter Titles of Atlas Shrugged” by Fred Seddon

“Some Structural Aspects of Atlas Shrugged” by Lester Hunt

Atlas Shrugged’s Moral Principle of the Sanction of the Victim” by Tibor Machan

“The Economics of Atlas Shrugged” by Peter Boettke

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  • 3 weeks later...

This coming Saturday, 6:00-9:00 p.m., will be the Authors-Meet-Critics session of Essays on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. The Meeting is at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. The critics will be Christine Swanton, Lester Hunt, and William Glod. The responding authors will be Onkar Ghate, Allan Gotthelf, and Gregory Salmieri.

You can attend this session (GXIII-A) even if you are not a member of the American Philosophical Association. Go to the Mezzanine level of the Westin St. Francis, and tell them you want to purchase a special $10 ticket to attend a single session of the APA Meeting. They will let you know the room in which the Ayn Rand Society session will take place.

Registration will be open these hours:

Saturday 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Thursday 8:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

Wednesday 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

(Expect long line on Wed., the first day of the APA Meeting)

For $90 one not a member of the American Philosophical Association can register and receive a book with sessions and their locations, admission to any number of sessions, and discounts from many of the book vendors.

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This coming Saturday, 6:00-9:00 p.m., will be the Authors-Meet-Critics session of Essays on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. The Meeting is at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. The critics will be Christine Swanton, Lester Hunt, and William Glod. The responding authors will be Onkar Ghate, Allan Gotthelf, and Gregory Salmieri.

You can attend this session (GXIII-A) even if you are not a member of the American Philosophical Association. Go to the Mezzanine level of the Westin St. Francis, and tell them you want to purchase a special $10 ticket to attend a single session of the APA Meeting. They will let you know the room in which the Ayn Rand Society session will take place.

Registration will be open these hours:

Saturday 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Thursday 8:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

Wednesday 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

(Expect long line on Wed., the first day of the APA Meeting)

For $90 one not a member of the American Philosophical Association can register and receive a book with sessions and their locations, admission to any number of sessions, and discounts from many of the book vendors.

Thanks for posting this information. It does sound interesting.

I recognize the names of the ARI folks and Lester Hunt. Can you tell me about Christine Swanton and William Glod.

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Chris G,

I'm not familiar with Glod.

Christine Swanton is from New Zealand and is an expert on "virtue ethics." She was a commentator at the ARS event in December 2006; I think she's participated in at least one other ARS event since then.

Trivia answer: She was the initiator of the behind-the-table transfer to Allan Gotthelf that several of us witnessed in 2006. She was returning a monograph by Neera Badhwar that he'd loaned her (it was published by TAS)

Robert C

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Stephen, I particularly enjoyed post #5. Your four favorite scenes are well-chosen.

For me, I would add to this list, not so much a scene but an evocative, emotional passage: the description of "the Concerto of Deliverance".

Here are two precursors of the concerto-of-deliverance text.

Roark to Mallory on the kind of sculpture he wants for the Temple of the Human Spirit:

“The human spirit. . . . The aspiration and the fulfillment, both. Uplifted in its quest—and uplifting by its own essence. Seeking God—and finding itself.”

(353, first edition of Fountainhead)

Dominique and Howard in bed, it goes:

It was surrender, made more complete by the force of their resistance. It was an act of tension as the great things on earth are things in tension. . . . It was the unendurable, the agony, an act of passion—the word born to mean suffering—it was the moment made of hatred, tension, pain—the moment that broke its own elements, inverted them, triumphed, swept into a denial of all suffering, into its antithesis, into ecstasy.

(301)

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