Boydstun Posted January 25, 2021 Report Share Posted January 25, 2021 (edited) Mind in Steel Dagny “felt the sweep of an emotion which she could not contain, as of something bursting upward. She turned to the door of the motor units, she threw it open to a screaming jet of sound and escaped into the pounding of the engine’s heart. . . . “Why had she always felt that joyous sense of confidence when looking at machines?—she thought. In these giant shapes, two aspects pertaining to the inhuman were radiantly absent: the causeless and the purposeless. Every part of the motors was an embodied answer to ‘Why?’ and ‘What for?’—like the steps of a life-course chosen by the sort of mind she worshipped. The motors were a moral code cast in steel. “They are alive, she thought, but their soul operates them by remote control. Their soul is in every man who has the capacity to equal this achievement.” (I VIII, 245–46) Dagny Taggart had been nine years old when she had determined her life work would be to run the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. She had pronounced the decision to herself one day while alone walking rails that cut through a forrest, walking the rungs of “two straight lines of steel that went off into the distance and met in a single point” (I III, 50). One of Rand’s principal protagonists in Atlas Shrugged is Francisco d’Anconia who is “the last descendant of one of the noblest families of Argentina. He owned cattle ranches, coffee plantations and most of the copper mines of Chile. He owned half of South America and sundry mines scattered through the United States as small change” (I III, 53). The boy Francisco would be brought every summer, by “a stern South American tutor,” to spend a month at the Taggart estate on the Hudson (I V, 90). The Taggart children, James and Dagny, are future heirs of a transcontinental railroad. When they were teenagers, Dagny once asked Francisco “‘What is the most depraved type of human being?’” He replied “‘The man without a purpose’” (99). Francisco is an extremely gifted child, in mind and in physical agility. He is “can do” and he is joy. Rand looks on the fortunes of wealthy families as the results of the noble in man. For family fortunes in her fiction, she includes a story of the man who first made the fortune. His traits are noble traits, at least under Rand’s cast of the noble in human beings. Some of the children of such fortune-makers will not be noble humans: premier example in Atlas Shrugged is James Taggart. Rand’s noble ones take their greatest joy in productive work, most particularly commercially valuable work. Two things were impossible to the youth Francisco: “to stand still or to move aimlessly” (94). Eddie, a childhood friend of Francisco’s through the Taggart children, once asked Francisco, “as they stood by the tracks of the Taggart station, ‘you’ve been just about everywhere in the world. What’s the most important thing on earth?’ ‘This’, answered Francisco, pointing to the emblem TT on the front of an engine” (95). Francisco is from an aristocratic family, but the coat-of-arms he reveres as symbols of nobility in our era “are to be found on billboards and in the ads of popular magazines” (95). It is rationality that Rand will unveil as the center of that in human being that is to be admired. This idea has a long philosophic pedigree, though Rand will cast the concept of rationality anew. Reason keeping the trains running is second to none in true worth, and philosophy protecting and nurturing that reason is philosophy most fine. It is unfortunate, I say, that Rand portrayed a personification of ideal man, in Francisco, as a new aristocracy, a new nobility. She evidently thought it true in the real world, as well, that holding onto inherited wealth requires an heir coming to earn the wealth, in a sense, by active enterprise and risk. This is an erroneous generalization, and the right way to look at it, I should say, is that one does not need to deserve property by earning in order to be rightly entitled to the property. The case for that entitlement would be whatever case one can make for the full bundle of liberal property rights. Such a case is offered in Atlas Shrugged by welding freedom of private action to freedom of the creative rational mind; by welding of general prosperity to self-interest and free private property incentives; and by welding general economic, technical, scientific, and cultural decline to governmental highjacking of private property and restraining individual decision making. In the laboratory of a shuttered factory, Dagny found the remnant of the discarded model of a motor. “She examined the tarnished tubes and odd-shaped connections. She tried to guess their purpose, her mind going over every type of motor she knew and every possible kind of work its parts could perform. None fitted the model. It looked like an electric motor, but she could not tell what fuel it was intended to burn. It was not designed for steam, or oil, or anything she could name” (I IX, 288). Whether by design of the author or by accidental coincidence, that description of the mysterious motor could be figuratively and rightly said of the new philosophy she was presenting within this novel. Note  Where Rand writes “the engine’s heart,” she means “the locomotive’s heart.” Where she writes “the motor units,” she means the diesel combustion engine, but what else? I don’t know why she used the plural on “unit.” I don’t think there are any locomotives having more than one diesel engine; perhaps she was looking at the cylinder-head covers and noting their multiplicity (say 8V, 12V, 16V, or 20V) or perhaps she was thinking of the diesel as one unit and the electric generator as second unit. The diesel-electric locomotive, whose engine room Dagny enters, is technologically more advanced than a coal-steam locomotive (the locomotive that ends in the disaster in the Taggart Tunnel at II VII, 584–607; VIII, 620–22; see also I IX, 281–82). In the diesel-electric, the diesel engine turns a shaft passing to an electric generator. The electricity is transmitted to electric motors (called traction motors) that turn a gear that turns the wheels of the locomotive. Edited January 25, 2021 by Boydstun dream_weaver 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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