BOOKS: Atlas Shrugged

Raskolnikov,

I quite enjoyed your last post. Rand had to portray her government characters as corrupt to make her point that if we allow the government the redistributionist role, it is after all, run by people.

Although Rand advocates ‘selfishness’, her writings portray it as an informed self-interest. That is, respect each person’s ability and right to decide what is in their own best interest vice expecting an outside authority to dictate it. As well as the idea that people will take care of their loved ones, community out of that self-interest without being forced. Unfortunately, it instituted libertarianism, which at its extremes advocates things like pedophilia where the child is supposedly able to decide for themselves!!!

What Rand doesn’t address is the rights of, or our collective responsibilities to those individuals who truly can’t produce. That is, she does portray that there are people of varying capabilities, the ‘Übermench’ as you put it. But Atlas Shrugged depicts a symbiotic relationship between the ‘Ubermench’ and the less capable. That is, the ‘Ubermench’ has the ability and talent to create ideas but the implementation does require the hard-working less capable. With the less capable willingness to work, but needing the creativity of the ‘Ubermench’ to create the opportunities. Again, but what about those unfortunates among us who are neither? And this is where I agree with the criticism that Rand portrays no sense that in a community there is a responsibility to those people. The sick, the elderly etc. Those who can not pursue or stand up for their informed self interest. If I recall correctly, that is missing from her oversimplified characterization of society.

It has been awhile since I read Rand, but it did seem to me she was rather callous toward those who simply couldn’t produce, and her derisive treatment of the severely disabled in “The Fountainhead” was just awful.

But it doesn’t mean there is no value at all in her observations. And too, it has to be recognized that her works are pretty dated by now. “Atlas Shrugged” was dated (from an industrial standpoint, at least) already, when it was published. One really has to keep that in mind in reading any literature. There are always things that are dated, but literature that stands the test of time should be gleaned for what lasting value it has, not for what it lacks. Goodness, if we read 19th Century novels, and didn’t realize the composition of classes has changed, we would get a very distorted picture of what the “middle class” was like at the time. Back then, the term was largely applied to the non-noble wealthy.

Frankly, when it comes to the sick, the elderly, etc, one should not look to Rand for guidance, but to the Social Encyclicals, which are very definite about the subject. When it comes to her critique of socialism, though, she was not far away from hitting it, and in a popular genre. Just because others have more recently done a better job of it does not take away from the fact that she was.

Ridgerunner,
I would never advocate looking to a particular author for guidance and hope I didn’t come off that way. As you advise, I look to the Church for my guidance. However, I do believe that the ideas presented in books and they way they are presented are worthy of consideration, they can assist us in evaluating our beliefs and values from a different perspective. One doesn’t have to accept ideas contrary to ones beliefs, but they should stimulate a thoughtful evaluation and response. This is where I respectfully disagree with those who would never read an author simply because of the author’s personal values. I can and will consider an opposing view as a stimulus to thoughtful discussion.

I have enjoyed your posts, and you make some good points in considering books in the context of the times they were written. I think that the discussion of redistribution through the ages could expand to consider the role of the Church in encouraging that redistribution by governments throughout its history. Again, I have enjoyed your and Raskolkinovs posts. They make me wish I had a better background in literature and had read more and could be as articulate.

I do not disagree with any of the above.

I’m not sure there is any such thing as a truly sufficient background in literature. One reads, then reads some more, then some more, and on and on and on.

Before I leave for the evening, I thought I would address this. One really can, if it’s the right author. There are so many literary works I have not read that I will surely leave out the most important. But when it comes to things you can read that really can give guidance, and should be trusted, one could hardly do better than Chaucer, most of Shakespeare, Dante and all three volumes of “Gulag Archipelago”.

The thing is, you can read them again and again and find new things in them every time. It’s like peeling an onion, and in every layer there is a profound and unchanging truth. That’s part of the reason some literary works stand the test of time and some don’t.

I suppose it is true that Rand didn’t advocate pure selfishness, which would basically be sociopathy. The utopia formed at the end of Anthem reflects that she thought everyone pursuing their own interests benefitted everyone. However, there are certain circumstances in which it is noble for one to sacrifice oneself without gaining aything in return, and though one should always sceptical of any politician claiming to act in the interest of the people, there is still such a thing as a genuinely good leader.

I guess for a person who just escaped from a totalitarian state, Rand’s message would seem like a breath of fresh air. Personally, having never really been deprived of personal freedom, it’s not as much the case for me. Personal freedom is indispensable to a fulfilling life, about that I can hardly disagree with Rand, but there is also much more to life than being able to do whatever one wants.

My favorite dystopian critique of socialism is still 1984, which ironically was written by a fabian socialist.

I

would never advocate looking to a particular author for guidance and hope I didn’t come off that way. As you advise, I look to the Church for my guidance. However, I do believe that the ideas presented in books and they way they are presented are worthy of consideration, they can assist us in evaluating our beliefs and values from a different perspective. One doesn’t have to accept ideas contrary to ones beliefs, but they should stimulate a thoughtful evaluation and response. This is where I respectfully disagree with those who would never read an author simply because of the author’s personal values. I can and will consider an opposing view as a stimulus to thoughtful discussion.

Definitely. Afterall, why only read books by people you agree with? It’s the controversial books that are often the most enjoyable. It is also useful when one ends up in a discussion with their advocates. I enjoy reading Nietzsche, for example. And Nietzsche is especially popular among atheists. Of course, most of them only read a little Nietzsche (the couple tracts where he focuses on lambasting Christianity) and have no idea what Nietzsche is really advocating. If they did, they wouldn’t touch Nietzsche with a ten foot pole.

I have enjoyed your posts, and you make some good points in considering books in the context of the times they were written. I think that the discussion of redistribution through the ages could expand to consider the role of the Church in encouraging that redistribution by governments throughout its history. Again, I have enjoyed your and Raskolkinovs posts. They make me wish I had a better background in literature and had read more and could be as articulate.

Well you’ve certainly already read more of Ayn Rand than I have; I guess that counts for something, since according to Modern Library’s rankings, Ayn Rand is the best novelist of all time.

Before I leave for the evening, I thought I would address this. One really can, if it’s the right author. There are so many literary works I have not read that I will surely leave out the most important. But when it comes to things you can read that really can give guidance, and should be trusted, one could hardly do better than Chaucer, most of Shakespeare, Dante and all three volumes of “Gulag Archipelago”.

I hear Dosteovsky is pretty good too ;). As my username might hint, I’m a big fan of his.

The thing is, you can read them again and again and find new things in them every time. It’s like peeling an onion, and in every layer there is a profound and unchanging truth. That’s part of the reason some literary works stand the test of time and some don’t.

I couldn’t agree more.

I liked it.

A bit long though. I wish she could have compressed her points into a shorter book.

I have read “The Fountainhead” too, but it doesn’t stand out in my mind as much as “Atlas Shrugged”. I also read her Introduction to Objectivist Epistimology, but that went over my head. I believe she also published a compilation of theories with Leonard Piekoff.

Also, I think the past Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, was one of her disciples, but you wouldn’t know it from the policies he supported.

I remain ambivalent. My exposure to Rand comes from reading We the Living. I’m glad I read it, it caught me at the right time and helped me think more about writing and reading in general. That said, I think We the Living tends to be more autobiographical and I’m not sure I have the desire to delve into one of her more philosophical novels.

I read A.S. years ago. The concept of gaining rewards for honest labor and innovation without denigration by others seems to be good.

On the other hand the philosophy, which is very adverse to Chrisitanity, is significantly flawed.

My philosophy has always been: Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Rand’s philosophy seems to be: Your nose has no right being where I want to swing my fist.

youtube.com/watch?v=fTmac2fs5HQ

Proof this woman is a lost soul.

So was Lenin, but you can’t fully understand much about the 20th Century (or, indeed, about totalitarian methodologies) without having at least a bowing acquaintence with his works.

I loved the book. You have to read it looking at it in a economic context. Yesw she wasn’t a fan of religion, but she has a real point about government intervention never being a great thing in industries, economics or in the personal lives of people.

The book shows that they more control government has the wore off society becomes. I think that is the most important, and ironically prophetic theme of the book.

There are lots of great books out there written by non catholic authors.

Awful book. I tried to read it, but it was so bad I wanted to rip my eyeballs out. I love literature and can deal with many different modes of expression, archaic language, etc. But her work seems utterly unconnected with the human experience. :nope:

The Fountainhead is a better book as literature. Have any of you ever seen the movie, with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal? What a hoot! Rand controlled it and it’s one of the strangest adventures on film ever made. She took the revenue from Fountainhead to support she and her husband while writing Atlas Shrugged. Absolutely very good literature, if not great, and intriguing-just very, very wordy also. Yes, Alan Greenspan was a protege of hers, but where she compromised and lost so much of her audience was her sexual affair with Nathaniel Brandon, young enough to be her son, and with full knowledge of her hapless husband. A sad but brilliant woman.

One thing I must make clear: I hate Rand like Trotsky hated Stalin. I am an actual Aristotelian, thank you, and she’s nothing but a perverter of our tradition. Indeed, Marx had more of a claim to be a Platonist (consider the Marxist view of “class” as compared with Platonic hyperrealism) than Rand did to follow Aristotle.

Among her corruptions of the Philosopher:
[LIST=1]
*]Her ethics is extremist, never having heard of the Golden Mean.
*]Her metaphysics has no form/matter distinction, and says essences are purely epistemological (which is basically Nominalism).
*]Her argument for abortion uses that old “fetus only a potential life” nonsense, never mind that Aristotle specifically stated “a potential X must be an actual Y” and a fetus isn’t anything other than a human person.
*]Her stories violate the precept from the Poetics that a plot’s resolution must come from its events, instead of from a contrivance.
[/LIST]
Anathema sit.

Nathaniel Brandon must have been a haplees individual as well. Frankly, she’s about the most unattractive, furtive, elusive individual I have ever seen.

Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation.

Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them.

From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber — go!” The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture — that Dollar Sign, for example.

At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.

  • Excerpt from “Big Sister Is Watching You” Whittaker Chamber’s review of “Atlas Shrugged.”

nationalreview.com/articles/222482/big-sister-watching-you/flashback?page=1

This review so angered and devastated Rand that she refused from then on to appear anywhere with William Buckley, the publisher of National Review.

Of course, she claimed she never read the review.

It’s a serious error to call Ayn Rand a philosopher; essentially she offers a highly simplistic ethical egoism.

Pure selfishness is all there is to it, according to AR. More than this, we SHOULD be selfish.

So much for Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount.

Two reasons to dislike AR:
(1) anti-humanism of her perspective;
(2) anti-intellectualism of her methods.

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