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Why does Dagny leave Atlantis?

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Hey all. This is Anthony Carreras. I introduced myself in the introduction section prior to getting this registration thing down. Anyhow, I have a question I'd like to ask you all about a specific scene from Atlas Shrugged, which I am assuming most of you (if not all) have read. (Steve - I asked you this question once on IM).

The scene is when Dagny is in Atlantis, debating in her mind whether or not to stay in Atlantis or go back to the railroad. John Galt says to her, "If any of your confusion is a result of a conflict between your heart and your mind, follow your MIND." My question is: by choosing to return to her railroad, did Dagny follow her heart or her mind? I have always wondered about this and it took my quite some time to arrive at an answer. I have determined for myself that she must have followed her mind. At first it is easy to say that Dagny followed her heart by going back to the railroad, simply because she felt so strongly for it and had such emotional attachment to it. But I truly believe that she was not completely convinced about the true value of Atlantis. For instance, when Galt tells her the creed "I swear by my live and my love of it..." she says that she has always lived by that code. But then she says to Galt: "But I don't think that yours is the way to practice it." Also in support of my conclusion, I believe that Dagny truly thought that she was going to be able to save her railroad by going back. I believe that she made a rational decision based on her value for the railroad, rather than a decision based on emotional whim.

I'm curious if anyone here has any thoughts on this matter. Thanks.

AC

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I believe your conclusion is at least plausible, and I personally agree with you 100%. Dagny's actions were a result of an (honest) intellectual mistake, not whim worship or evasion, based on precisely the evidence you've suggested.

Dagny's problem is that she was almost too benevolent, in that she let her benevolence interfere with her objectivity in her judgments of others. That may sound like an emotional issue, but one's fundamental approach to others--such as extending to them the benefit of the doubt--is primarily a philosophic issue. Dagny simply over-extended it, in thinking that other people would be rational enough to reverse their suicidal course. But I think that's a mistake anyone could make, and is excusable to some extent (as long as it's eventually corrected).

And, as you mentioned, she was a passionate valuer, and she made the mistake that other people's livelihoods meant as much to them as the railroad did to her. I think she made a decision based on how much she valued the railroad versus the risk of losing it. She may not have actually thought that she had a very good chance of saving the railroad, but she was not yet certain that she could not save it, and it was of such great value to her that she decided to take that risk; she had to try.

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Ayn Rand wanted to show through that situation that Dagny knew in her mind that her railway was a lost cause but still held in her heart an unwillingness to let her emotional attachments to her past (and Rearden) go - and to trust just her mind.

Atlantis, to Ayn, was a reserve for the world's most worthy, meaning the few who followed pure reason only. Dagny simply wasn't ready yet, she still doubted that 'pure' truth.

...this is an example of Ayn Rand mixing her teachings with fiction - the 'striving for truth' theme has been a favourite throughout history. It has been used in everything from Aesop's fables to Matrix (Whoa! The first one) - it's just the 'truth' that varies from story to story.

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It is an error of knowledge, not an issue of emotionalism.

Notice some of the contrasts in the initial scenes in the Gulch. When Galt cooks breakfast for Dagny, she says that it is the most expensive breakfast she will ever eat, considering the value of the time of the cook and those who created the ingredients. He responds that she is right in one sense, but entirely wrong in another: none of the values they have created in cooking the meal will go to their own destruction. (You'll find this theme repeated in other parts of this section as well.)

This is what she does not fully grasp, and is what leads her to go back to the outside world. She does not grasp the sanction of the victim. She believes that in fighting for Taggart Transcontinental, she is fighting against the looters; in fact, she is working for them. It is only when she comes to realize the precise meanings of her actions, and of the actions of the strikers, that she joins the strike.

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