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How on Earth is anyone inspired by Atlas Shrugged?

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I have been reading Objectivism for a few years. I read OPAR first, then the rest of it, and I've finally gotten to Atlas Shrugged (yes, I'm reading it last). Until now, I found Objectivism to be a great, brilliant, inspiring philosophy; I could not see how anyone could take issue with it, or denounce Rand so loudly as she is denounced.

Then I started reading Atlas. All the denunciations make sense now. I mean, WOW. It's like between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand magically went from inspiring to the opposite of inspiring. On nearly every page, there is some touch that whispers "even if you reach your highest ambitions, you are nothing but a maggot and a parasite on the truly moral."

Needless to say, I am done with this philosophy. (Though I will keep reading the parts of Rand that aren't actually dangerous to my mental health.) But, I do want to ask how anyone can not be done with this philosophy after reading Atlas.

Do you systematically misinterpret every single page of Atlas? Impossible.

Do you think you can be like John Galt? I would wager that you do not.

Do you think that the message of Atlas is true, and are so strongly committed to the truth that, for the sake of obtaining it, you are willing to sacrifice all self love? I refuse to believe that anyone is capable of such a thing.

So, help me to understand your mindset, here on OO.net, please. This is baffling to me.

No, wait, actually, perhaps if you were fourteen, and stupid, then you could think that this book was about you; that may be why the young find this book inspiring. But most of the people on this forum should be past the point in life where that is a plausible explanation for their liking Atlas.

Edited by ctrl y

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Then I started reading Atlas. All the denunciations make sense now. I mean, WOW. It's like between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand magically went from inspiring to the opposite of inspiring. On nearly every page, there is some touch that whispers "even if you reach your highest ambitions, you are nothing but a maggot and a parasite on the truly moral."

Needless to say, I am done with this philosophy. (Though I will keep reading the parts of Rand that aren't actually dangerous to my mental health.) But, I do want to ask how anyone can not be done with this philosophy after reading Atlas.

Do you think that the message of Atlas is true, and are so strongly committed to the truth that, for the sake of obtaining it, you are willing to sacrifice all self love? I refuse to believe that anyone is capable of such a thing.

To start, I never got that message from Atlas Shrugged.

Could you explain why you're getting that message? If you've read so much of her non-fiction and fiction, and so far you've been nothing but inspired by it, I don't think it's Atlas Shrugged that's giving you that message, because Atlas Shrugged never really expressed anything that Ayn Rand didn't make explicit in her non-fiction.

Further, if you're in any way serious about asking the questions you've asked and getting answers and figuring out why your experience is different from everyone else's, do you think it's too much to ask that you not be so mocking?

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Atlas shrugged's heroes are basically human gods. Never was it expressed in the novel though that people are expected to reach the heights of greatness that her heroes do.

Morality isn't meant to compare all people across all time in all situations. Moral judgment always requires a great deal of context.

So a question could be asked "Am I as good as John Galt". A different situation will yield completely different results. There are a lot of lowlifes and weaklings out there, but anytime the start to pick themselves up and continue the struggle for their life and well being it is good.

Point is, don't compare yourself to others arbitrarily. In general it is best to compare yourself to what you know you could be.

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I have been reading Objectivism for a few years. I read OPAR first, then the rest of it, and I've finally gotten to Atlas Shrugged (yes, I'm reading it last). Until now, I found Objectivism to be a great, brilliant, inspiring philosophy; I could not see how anyone could take issue with it, or denounce Rand so loudly as she is denounced.

Then I started reading Atlas. All the denunciations make sense now. I mean, WOW. It's like between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand magically went from inspiring to the opposite of inspiring. On nearly every page, there is some touch that whispers "even if you reach your highest ambitions, you are nothing but a maggot and a parasite on the truly moral."

Needless to say, I am done with this philosophy. (Though I will keep reading the parts of Rand that aren't actually dangerous to my mental health.) But, I do want to ask how anyone can not be done with this philosophy after reading Atlas.

Do you systematically misinterpret every single page of Atlas? Impossible.

Do you think you can be like John Galt? I would wager that you do not.

Do you think that the message of Atlas is true, and are so strongly committed to the truth that, for the sake of obtaining it, you are willing to sacrifice all self love? I refuse to believe that anyone is capable of such a thing.

So, help me to understand your mindset, here on OO.net, please. This is baffling to me.

No, wait, actually, perhaps if you were fourteen, and stupid, then you could think that this book was about you; that may be why the young find this book inspiring. But most of the people on this forum should be past the point in life where that is a plausible explanation for their liking Atlas.

You are baffling to me. The alleged message you talk about is not in the book at all. Not even implicitly. The problem is that you are reading into things which are not there objectively speaking. This makes me wonder if we have even read the same book.

If we have read the same book, then I suspect that this is a sense of life issue, but if so then I cannot help you. I can however tell you that you have no reason to mock people who love Atlas Shrugged merely because your basic view of the world is the complete opposite to Ayn Rand's and mine and millions of others. Not only because I think our sense of life is sound (and the complete opposite sense of life is not), but also because one's sense of life is not under one's direct volitional control to change.

Another possibility is that you have some serious self-esteem issues. If one misunderstands Objectivism then this can cause some serious problems. Objectivism says you should NOT let others achievements, intelligence or ability be the standard for your own self-worth. So if you believe you must be like John Galt in terms of intelligence, ability, achievements, to be a morally perfect person, then you're gravely mistaken.

There is also the possibility that you dislike all the "dinunciations" in the book because they hit close to home in philosophical terms. If so, then you should check your premises instead of mocking those who love Atlas Shrugged.

The reason most people, millions of them (me and other _adults_ included), get inspired are many. The main reason it has inspired me is its concretization of the idea that you have a right to live for your own rational happiness sake, i.e., its concretization of rational egoism. That is one of the most _morally_ and _psychologically_ empowering ideas I have ever been introduced to.

Whenever people, intellectuals and politicians wants to push me around, Atlas Shrugged have convinced me of my right to exist for my own sake. That they have no right to take my life, my values, my property or my freedom away from me. Hank Rearden's speech in his own defense is wonderful in this respect.

The book also presents a philosophical defense for reason as man's basic means of survival and rationality as the primary virtue. It is therefore a celebration of man - the rational animal - at his best. Who cannot get at least _some_ inspiration from this?

It's been almost ten years since I first read Atlas Shrugged. I've read it a couple of more times since then. I have often read it when I've felt really bad, when I have been depressed (usually over the state of the culture). To escape into the wonderful world of Atlas Shrugged, to meet all these inspiring heroes again and relive their electrifying moral struggle, is and have always been an exhilarating experience for me. I go from depressed to energized. I know the same is true for millions of others who read the book. As a matter of fact, I think I will soon read Atlas Shrugged again.

Edited by knast

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The fate of Eddie did leave me a rather sour taste in my mouth, though there are threads that answer this point.

I don't understand how you could reject a "great, brilliant, inspiring philosophy" based on one work of fiction? Even if you dislike AS, it doesn't change the works you have already read and enjoyed.

You appear to have adopted a caricatured view of AS, which I could understand if you hadn't been studying Objectivism for years.

Additionally, I don't know how far you are in the book, or if you finished it, but what about this part: (spoiler alert, is is white, highlight it to read)

There is, in Galt's Gulch, a truck driver (if I remember correctly) whom Dagny presumes is a Professor of philology, but it turns out, he actually is a truck driver - but crucially, he wants to better his life, he doesn't always want to be a driver. That clearly sends the message to the reader that it is not just some Nietzschean supermen who are deserving of GG, but anyone with drive, ambition etc.

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The original post uses 8 paragraphs to say...absolutely nothing at all. I kept expecting some sort of explanation to begin but there never was one.

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Interesting, as I found Atlas Shrugged to be very inspirational. It provided me with the idea that I could achieve my own happiness, along with many others. In fact, I don't understand as to how the OP reached this conclusion.

Now, I will say that there are a vast number of concepts within philosophy that I do not understand yet, as I am quite new to the field. I will also say that Ayn Rand's works were my introduction to philosophy. It was her works that inspired me to get into philosophy; and, to be exact, it was the essays within Philosophy: Who Needs It? that increased my interest within philosophy. With that said, I would never call myself 'stupid', nor would I call anyone else that was inspired by Rand's AS 'stupid'. For evidence of this, I encourage you to speak to a few of the regulars here on chat, as they are certainly not stupid.

It isn't enough to merely state that I disagree.

Edited by dannyjpl

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Then I started reading Atlas. All the denunciations make sense now. I mean, WOW. It's like between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand magically went from inspiring to the opposite of inspiring. On nearly every page, there is some touch that whispers "even if you reach your highest ambitions, you are nothing but a maggot and a parasite on the truly moral."

*Why* do you think that? I'm not saying Atlas Shrugged should be your absolute favorite book, but in what way does the book, to you, suggest that even if you achieve your ambitions you'll never be truly moral? Give an example of an event.

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WARNING THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.

ctrl_y wrote: "On nearly every page, there is some touch that whispers 'even if you reach your highest ambitions, you are nothing but a maggot and a parasite on the truly moral.'"

So ctrl_y:s "highest ambitions" leaves him with the feeling that he is "a maggot" and "a parasite on the truly moral people"? If so, then maybe it is time for him to reconsider the nature of his "highest ambitions"?

I cannot help but wonder what could have given anybody the impression that Objectivism is only for "human gods" or something like that. It is not true. Your moral worth does not rest your intelligence. There is nothing in Atlas Shrugged to suggest that. What is important is not your level of knowledge or intelligence. It is whether you use your knowledge and intelligence to the best of your ability. "Moral perfection is an unbreached rationality—not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute." (Atlas Shrugged.)

There are many good characters in Atlas Shrugged, moral people, who are not extraordinarily intelligent.

Now Ayn Rand writes about the Pyramid of Ability in Atlas Shrugged. This is her answer to those who say that there is a conflict of interest between the (intellectually) strong and the (intellectually) weak. It is, however, clear from the book as a whole, from John Galt's speech in particular, and from simply observing the facts of reality, that the strong gain from the weak and that the weak gain from the strong:

"It is the value of his own time that the strong of the intellect transfers to the weak, letting them work on the jobs he discovered, while devoting his time to further discoveries. This is mutual trade to mutual advantage; the interests of the mind are one, no matter what the degree of intelligence, among men who desire to work and don’t seek or expect the unearned." (Atlas Shrugged.)

To be (intellectually) weak is, as we have seen, _not_ a moral flaw. It is simply a fact. (Observe that babies are helpless. They need the stronger, their parents, to survive. Does this mean that babies are worthless, immoral, parasites who should feel ashamed of themselves? No.)

A person of low intelligence who have no desire to think, does not think, does not take personal responsibility, does not attempt to be the best person he can be for the sake of his own happiness, he should feel bad about himself. A person of low intelligence, with great dreams and ambitions given his context, who take active steps to achieve them, who wants to be the best person he can for the sake of his own happiness is, according to Ayn Rand, a moral hero: "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." (The Virtue of Selfishness.)

The weak do, however, gain more from the strong: "The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong." (Atlas Shrugged.)

This is not controversial. The weakest would have a hard time to survive without the thinking of the strong. Without the thinkers who invents new drugs (e.g., the inventors of penicillin), many who today survive would die. Without the the thinkers who invents new ways to produce food (e.g., Norman Borlaug), many who survive today would be dying of starvation.

Also observe how life is in countries where the (intellectually) strong have no chance because they have no freedom. Look at the standard of living there. Look at how miserable life is there. Or study history and observe how life was before the men of the mind was liberated in the 18th and 19th century here in the West.

What is the moral implication of all of this? If you really understand what this means, then you should feel an enormous gratitude towards the men of ability. I do.

I have not invented anything that I use daily for my own benefit. Businessmen, inventors, philosophers, scientists such as Steve Jobs, Isaac Newton, Aristotle, Thomas Edison, among many others have all made my life better. Consequently I feel an enormous gratitude for the men of ability; the thinkers and creators. I remind myself of this fact every day I use a computer, iPod, printer, microwave oven, cell phone, my inexpensive eye glasses that I bought over the Internet, and million other things. I do not take the thinkers or the creators and their achievements for granted. If you can clearly see the value and importance of the men of ability in your own life, then you should to.

Edited by knast

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Nevermind, Knast said the same thing but far more eloquently.

The only thing I'll add, because perhaps it will help is that the "theme" of Atlas Shrugged (as Rand mentions in "The Art of Fiction") is essentially the importance of rationality and everything she wrote was in some way to concertize that idea so that the reader can then understand the abstraction (as in 'concept') that is a rationality and the rational man.

Edited by emanon

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It seems like this guy is trolling, considering this statement

No, wait, actually, perhaps if you were fourteen, and stupid, then you could think that this book was about you; that may be why the young find this book inspiring. But most of the people on this forum should be past the point in life where that is a plausible explanation for their liking Atlas.

I'm not going to respond, however, because like eveyrone else here, I'd like some more substantiated claims.

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After reading your criticisms, I am a changed man. I would have written a different OP had I read your criticisms first.

That is, the word "WOW" would have been in lower case, and italicized.

Seriously, I did not make this post to defend a position on Atlas Shrugged. My intent was simply to ask a question, which is represented in the title of this thread. I presented my impression of Atlas Shrugged to provide context to this question. It is unfortunate that so many of you are offended by my honest impression of Atlas Shrugged. If it helps at all, I am probably as distressed by the book as you are about my comments regarding it.

Edited by ctrl y

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Ctrl Y: Perhaps you should give it a few days and then read it again with a fresh perspective and no expectations?

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On nearly every page, there is some touch that whispers "even if you reach your highest ambitions, you are nothing but a maggot and a parasite on the truly moral."

Well it appears by this statement, that you think yourself as being fundamentally and irrevocably immoral, and you are feeling bad because Ayn Rand does such an excellent job of making known the destruction that results of one's immorality. No, I don't hold that same premise as you, so yes, it was very inspiring to me to see the concretization of such immensely moral figures in Atlas Shrugged.

Do you think that the message of Atlas is true, and are so strongly committed to the truth that, for the sake of obtaining it, you are willing to sacrifice all self love? I refuse to believe that anyone is capable of such a thing.

If you mean, sacrificing love for those parts of myself based upon evasions, falsehoods, and immorality - in exchange for seizing upon and uplifting those parts of myself based upon fact, whole truth, and morality ... why, yes. I'm ecstatic to have been empowered in this way by Atlas Shrugged, and yes I have indeed been made more capable to change my life for the better as a result of this book.

Needless to say, I am done with this philosophy. (Though I will keep reading the parts of Rand that aren't actually dangerous to my mental health.) But, I do want to ask how anyone can not be done with this philosophy after reading Atlas.

Exactly what sort of mentality of yours does Objectivism pose a danger to, and why are you worried about the health of such a mentality as that?

This this whole thread makes no sense bro, what's wrong?

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Do you think that the message of Atlas is true, and are so strongly committed to the truth that, for the sake of obtaining it, you are willing to sacrifice all self love? I refuse to believe that anyone is capable of such a thing.

From Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal: The political aspects of Atlas Shrugged are not its theme. Its theme is primarily ethical-epistemological: the role of the mind in man's existence—and politics, necessarily, is one of the themes consequences.

In The Art of Fiction: the theme of Atlas Shrugged is "the importance of reason"—a wide abstraction.

and later: The theme of Atlas Shrugged is: the crucial value of the human mind. The plot-theme is: the mind on strike.

From The Romantic Manifesto: 1. Theme. A theme is the summation of a novel's abstract meaning. For instance, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is: "The role of the mind in man's existence."

How does this illustrate that a strong commitment to truth equates or identifies itself as the sacrifice of self-love?

After reading your criticisms, I am a changed man. I would have written a different OP had I read your criticisms first.

That is, the word "WOW" would have been in lower case, and italicized.

Seriously, I did not make this post to defend a position on Atlas Shrugged. My intent was simply to ask a question, which is represented in the title of this thread. I presented my impression of Atlas Shrugged to provide context to this question. It is unfortunate that so many of you are offended by my honest impression of Atlas Shrugged. If it helps at all, I am probably as distressed by the book as you are about my comments regarding it.

Your emotional response to Atlas Shrugged, is the product of your standard of values. You may use it as a tool to introspect and augment them if necessary. Your impression of Atlas Shrugged is yours alone. Your expression of it serves only to help illuminate who you are.

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Dream_weaver hit the nail on the head. Your take on Atlas Shrugged tells us more about you than it does Atlas Shrugged.

I read Atlas Shrugged and found it very inspiring. I have no idea whence your groundbreaking interpretation came. There is nothing in that book that would lead you to come to the conclusion that you have.

In fact, I think you be trollin' and/or out of your mind.

Edited by Gramlich

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My intent was simply to ask a question, which is represented in the title of this thread.

What is more unfortunate is the manner in which you chose to ask those questions. They come across quite abrupt and insulting. The "sincerity" of your questions may have come across better had you not questioned the intelligence of your intended audience so much.

Edited by RationalBiker

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It is unfortunate that so many of you are offended by my honest impression of Atlas Shrugged.
For my part, I'm not so much offended by your emotional reaction to AS, I am annoyed that you think it is appropriate to use this forum as a vomitorium for your undigested feelings. Usually, mature adults reflect privately on what causes their feelings of inadequacy, to identify the root contradiction. Then if they have a serious question, they can pose the question for discussion. There is a distinction between "posing a question" and "making an assertion phrased as a question", which was a rule of the game show Jeopardy.

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After reading your criticisms, I am a changed man. I would have written a different OP had I read your criticisms first.

That is, the word "WOW" would have been in lower case, and italicized.

Seriously, I did not make this post to defend a position on Atlas Shrugged. My intent was simply to ask a question, which is represented in the title of this thread. I presented my impression of Atlas Shrugged to provide context to this question. It is unfortunate that so many of you are offended by my honest impression of Atlas Shrugged. If it helps at all, I am probably as distressed by the book as you are about my comments regarding it.

Well knast and many others gave great replies to your question. I don't understand why you made this forum post if you didn't actually wanted to discuss anything.

I don't think anyone here is as offended by your impression of Atlas (why would we care) as they are offended by the whole manner you have gone about discussin this.

You ask a question, give context. People answer the question, and comment on the context you gave. Instead of replying in any intellectual manner, you act like a asshole.

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Ctrl-y, I'm another one of those curious to know how you came to your conclusion. Is it just you who is domed to live the life of a parasite, or is everybody doomed? How can anyone be a parasite on the truly moral if everyone is a parasite? Please give specific passages.

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Mr. Odden et al. have been accusing me of having low self esteem, feelings of inadequacy, etc. which color my interpretation of Atlas. I would say that yes, I do feel inadequate - if "inadequate" is taken to mean "not a Randian hero." I would add that anyone who does not feel inadequate in this sense is probably deluded.

Edited by ctrl y

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ctrl y,

I would offer that if you can more specifically ask questions about your concerns with the book without questioning the intelligence and rationality of the rest of the forum in the process, then this thread can stay open. Otherwise, it will be closed.

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