Thoughts on my 2nd time through AS

Posted by Abaco 1 week, 1 day ago to Books
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I'm listening to an audio version of Atlas Shrugged. Read it about a decade ago. This 2nd time through, of course, is thought-provoking. Random thoughts... I was surprised and disappointed with the level of romantic jealousy Rearden had toward Francisco. I'm not sure the purpose of that in the story...other than to set up a great character development in him(?). Galt's speech is too long. But, would have made an excellent short book on philosophy! What is the purpose of Project X? In my mind it's to demonstrate the true violence of government and collectivism. But, I welcome comments on this. And finally...I can't help but note the comparison of the torture of John Galt with Room 101 in 1984. A colleague of mine and I regularly say, "The torture is the purpose"...a very chilling line we both noticed in 1984.

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  • Posted by coaldigger 4 days, 4 hours ago
    I am getting ready to read AS again (5th or 6th time?). I have a hardcover edition from the 19th printing that may be able to take one more reading without falling apart. I am not sure I fully understand the message even yet. I am shocked that I find things that I don't remember or remember differently every time I read it.
    I think that Project X represents how a government has to increase its use of force proportional to the mandate that its citizens live contrary to their own self interest.
    I would not shorten Galt's speech by one word, not Francisco's money speech. In my view Rand devised the whole book as a lure to readers to those two speeches.

    I doubt that Rand had any hope of changing socialists to her point of view. Socialists minds are wired differently and by adulthood, the circuits cannot accept the concept of an individual. I think she was trying to rein in the Reardens and Taggarts that were too bust to see that they were supporting the parasites and not even complaining.
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    • Posted by ewv 3 days, 22 hours ago
      Project X represents the results of turning over the product of the mind to thugs in a progression of increasing brutality. In her journal notes while working on Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand referred to Project X as the "open rise of the brute" and "the rule of brute force" (David Harriman, ed,The Journals of Ayn Rand).

      Before the destruction from Project X in Atlas Shrugged the coercion was still masked as the mostly "civilized" variety of the mixed economy. Its progression to open brutality paralleled the progression from the liberals to the rise of the violent New Left (and its further progression today) with the breaking point in the 1960s between Kennedy and the world of Lyndon Johnson. See Ayn Rand's "The Left: Old And New" in The Return of the Primitive.

      In her introduction to the 2nd edition of We the Living she included a reference to Project X as illustrating the general principle of dependence of brutes on thinkers who support them:

      "We the Living is not a story about Soviet Russia in 1925. It is a story about Dictatorship, any dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or—which this novel might do its share in helping to prevent—a socialist America..."

      She describes the perpetual failures of Soviet "Five Year Plans" without freedom of thought and action, and how the intellectuals prop them up with propaganda, then:

      "How many of such five-year plans will you need before you begin to understand? That depends on your intellectual honesty and your power of abstraction. But what about the Soviet possession of the atom bomb? Read the accounts of the trials of the scientists who were Soviet spies in England, Canada and the United States. But how can we explain the 'Sputnik'? Read the story of 'Project X' in Atlas Shrugged."

      Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand referred to Project X and the mentality of a Robert Stadler scientist turning over the product of the mind to thugs out of his lack of concern for the "practical" in science. This is in the discussion of the role of science and technology in the virtue of productiveness, under "Productiveness as the Adjustment of Nature to Man":

      "In a division-of-labor society, a man may properly specialize in cognition. But as long as the knowledge he acquires remains unembodied, it is not yet a productive achievement (nor does it work yet to support man's life). If the scientist or scholar is to qualify as productive, he must proceed in due course to the next step. He must give his discoveries some form of existence in physical reality and not merely in his consciousness—usually, by writing treatises or delivering lectures.

      "A scientist may not care himself to carry the process of embodiment further. Life in the ivory tower, however, is not a license to disdain 'the practical world.' In particular, it is not a license to turn a discovery over promiscuously to all comers, regardless of its harmful potential and of their character and purpose. This is tantamount to abetting the worst elements of mankind in their work of destruction. For details, one may read the story of Project X in Atlas Shrugged."
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  • Posted by salta 6 days, 21 hours ago
    I agree project X was to demonstrate the potential for violence. I also think it was the cause of one of the failings of the book.
    The books purpose should be to change minds. However, nobody who thinks like a socialist thinks that their ideas would lead to that extreme. So the imagery alienates them from the real socialism threat. They see (or read) that torture scene, and they do not relate to it, they think that is "not my socialism", so in my mind it keeps the book isolated to those who are already supporters of Rand's ideas. Great shame.
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    • Posted by 4 days, 18 hours ago
      I understand your point. The connection between socialism/collectivism and violence should have been better-developed. I agree, actually. Now that I'm well-seasoned (been around a while) I've figured that out on my own. But, it's not spelled out very clearly very often...
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      • Posted by Orwellian 4 days, 5 hours ago
        Anthem preceded Atlas S. and connected violence to the socialist concept. In her mind the connection was well established may not have needed further fleshing out in the story line.
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    • Posted by bassboat 3 days, 23 hours ago
      I've read the book 6 times and listened to it on audio as many. The purpose of Project X was simply to show the power of government over anyone or anything in its way. Projext X was the culmination of what the looters wanted to achieve, supreme power over the people.
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      • Posted by ewv 3 days, 20 hours ago
        The role of Project X was much more than just a show of power. It showed the exploitation of advanced research involving the consequences of Robert Stadler's support of the State Science Institute in a progression of increasing force to a breaking point of what Ayn Rand called the "open rise of the brute".

        Stadler had been a brilliant scientist who was not concerned with what he called the "practical" use of his theories. He supported the State Science institute as a "practical" means to get support he wanted, resulting in the very impractical consequences of brutality made possible by his intellect as coercion progressed to open brutality.
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        • Posted by LibertyBelle 2 days, 22 hours ago
          But the book is more than political propaganda. It has to do with what she called "two opposite attitudes towards life".
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          • Posted by ewv 2 days, 21 hours ago
            The them of the book was the role of the mind in human life, with the politics as a consequence in the plot. Part of that was the contrast between Galt, the "ideal man", and his formerly respected brilliant teacher Stadler. The Project X story shows the consequences of Stadler's "pragmatist" attitude towards the scientific intellect and its role in human life, resulting in his own agonizing destruction. That is the connection between the theme of the book and the consequences of Stadler's work and its prestige turned over to the rise of the brutes in politics.
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  • Posted by salta 6 days, 21 hours ago
    I agree the speech is much too long. It was nicely condensed in the movie script. We must remember though, Rand was writing in a time when human attention spans had not been shortened by the internet environment.
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  • Posted by 1 week ago
    In listening to Galt's speech I can't help but be reflective. I have withdrawn from society as much as practical at this point. This is because I'm sure, from my own personal experiences, that society has abandoned reason and evidence. I'm torn about coming forth with what I know. Or do I just let things unfold as the math says they will? As stated in Galt's speech - those who go with the mystics get what they deserve. It's interesting to see society trundle along when answers to their supposedly toughest questions are right under their noses. Like Dagny said....I studied engineering. When I see something, I see it.

    Ayn Rand was brilliant...
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  • Posted by  $  CaptainKirk 2 days, 21 hours ago
    The Jealousy thing was completely wiped away when he was NOT Jealous of her choosing Galt. And honestly, I think that was the purpose of it. To show his growth.

    I found it odd, though. It put Galt on a pedastal, as if he was so good, even men revered him and were okay losing women to him.

    I just took it to mean that Rand wanted it to be a respect thing, and a Personal Growth thing for Rearden... No better man to lose to, than Galt!
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  • Posted by Rex_Little 4 days, 2 hours ago
    Mention of Project X reminds me of what was probably the biggest howler in the movie. In the book, a messed-up public demonstration of Project X destroyed the Taggart Bridge. They cut Project X out of the movie--but the bridge was still destroyed. (A TV news commentator said it was "destroyed by regulations"; the only way that made any sense was if someone tried to carry a copy of the Federal Register across, and it collapsed under the weight.)
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  • Posted by Rex_Little 4 days, 3 hours ago
    Galt's speech . . . would have made an excellent short book on philosophy!

    The speech was part of such a book, For The New Intellectual, written by Rand herself. I actually read that before moving on to Atlas and Fountainhead.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 days, 17 hours ago
    I don't remember the "torture is the purpose" line from 1984, but I remember getting that feeling more from Toohey in the Fountainhead. I found it horrific that he didn't seem to want anything besides destorying others. Wynand was like that, but you could understand why. Someone hurt him, and he was going to show everyone he does run things. Toohey was harder to understand. He just didn't want people to live their dreams. That was the purpose.
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    • Posted by  $  skidance 4 days, 3 hours ago
      I've always that that the Toohey character in The Fountainhead looked too prosperous and insufficiently evil. Fortunately, I was aware of such evil when I was 19, two years after I first read AS. I had an aunt who could have been Toohey's twin; she tried to guilt me into quitting college to support my mother. I saw what she was trying to accomplish, and why. She promptly wrote me out of her will. Other family members concur that she was evil.
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