Thoughts on my 2nd time through AS

Posted by Abaco 6 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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. https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post...
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        • Posted by LibertyBelle 6 months 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 6 months 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 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 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 6 months 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 6 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 1 week 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 months, 1 week 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 LibertyBelle 6 months ago
      I believe I've met people who were like Toohey. Not perhaps as extreme, or perhaps not being as open and having as much chutzpah, but showing the same motivation.
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      • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 months ago
        "I believe I've met people who were like Toohey. "
        I think I have too. The thing that was so amazing about Fountainhead and AS for me was that I always imagined those people where acting like that out of a secret goal to get want they want in live. I thought that was wrong (I still do), and it part of life to consider people may be lying to cheat you. (I still do.) The shocking thing for me was that they sometimes do it not to get what they want but rather because they don't want anything. They think wanting things is wrong except for wanting to impose misery and self-righteously on others. Not having any desires, they live for reactions from others. So wanting things for yourself and getting them through fair trades is the exact opposite of what they do.
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        • Posted by LibertyBelle 5 months, 4 weeks ago
          Yeah. I think it shows more plainly in the case of certain schoolteachers. I don't mean to say that they are all like that; but maybe the ones that are, show it more plainly than such people in the general population, because in the classroom they've got power, and they can get away with it more easily. I remember my 8th grade math teacher, who, when I wanted to know why my answer was wrong (not that I ever really thought it was right, but I wanted to know why it was wrong, to avoid the same mistake next time), I would try to explain how I'd gotten my answer, and she'd interrupt with "[Name]--there are some things you have to take on faith." What insolent garbage! And once she said, Just as one had faith that "there is a good place, and a bad place..." It would have been bad enough in any subject, but in math, where logic is supposed to rule?! (Though I heard once that she had also once been an English teacher; I find that easy to believe).
          I also remember that cashier at a curb service restaurant, where I would jump in the window to get the next order, and she would not want to give me the order--although my boss said, "The one who's at the window is the one who[or that] gets the order." But at least I outlasted her. You see, she wanted the orders to be all apportioned out equally.--Oh, well....
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          • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 months, 4 weeks ago
            The people in your story remind me of the people Cheryl had the misfortune of coming across. Right after she had that horrible conversation with her husband about how he wanted her to be a diamond in the rough who he married to show what hell of a a guy he was for marrying someone beneath him, she ran into the exact same crap from the religious charitable worker. They're all about helping, but it's really about pushing themselves up as morally superior by pushing down some poor person caught up in drugs or prostitution.
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    • Posted by  $  skidance 6 months, 1 week 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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      • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 months ago
        "the Toohey character in The Fountainhead looked too prosperous and insufficiently evil. "
        Is he the character who acted as a quazi-religious advisor to people at school, urging them to not follow their dreams.
        "She promptly wrote me out of her will. "
        She sounds awful, but one possible positive way to look at it is she was offering to pay you, via her will, for doing what she wanted. You refused the offer, so she didn't pay. It would be worse if she paid you in some way and said now you owe it humankind to follow her selfless example and pay it forward.

        No matter how you slice it, though, manipulating a 19 y/o whose mother is struggling is low.
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        • Posted by  $  skidance 5 months, 4 weeks ago
          Actually, based upon family memories that had been shared with me, I deduced that she had never been happy and was bound and determined to do everything she could to prevent any other member of the family from achieving happiness. So, she was using guilt and blackmail to control me. It didn't work, thanks to AS.
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          • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 months, 4 weeks ago
            "bound and determined to do everything she could to prevent any other member of the family from achieving happiness."
            Wow. Sadly she sounds like she could be an Ayn Rand villain.
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        • Posted by ewv 5 months, 4 weeks ago
          From his description it sounds like she pulled the will as punishment after he wouldn't leave college, not for rejecting a bribe as an "offer". The "way to look at it" is the way it was, then dismiss and ignore it as unimportant to his life.
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          • Posted by  $  skidance 5 months, 2 weeks ago
            Just a minor correction: I'm female! I did complete college, albeit with an impractical major in Political Science. Eventually, however, I found decent employment, earned a Master's degree, and spent 24 years working for one employer, during which time I scrimped, saved, and invested my way to a fairly secure retirement--all on my own.
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          • Posted by LibertyBelle 5 months, 3 weeks ago
            Right on! I hope he made a success after he finished school, not that I have much confindence in that route to success, but if he did,fine. I think it is much better than to pin one's success on an inheritance, etc.
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