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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)[1]

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

[1] 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.

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Cast of Production

“An oncoming freight train hid the view, filling the windows with a rushing smear of noise. In a sudden break above the flat cars, the passengers saw distant structures under a faint, reddish glow in the sky; the glow moved in irregular spasms, as if the structures were breathing. . . . “The passengers could not grasp the complexity of what seemed to be a city stretched for miles . . . . They saw towers that looked like contorted skyscrapers, bridges hanging in mid-air, and sudden wounds spurting fire from out of solid walls. The saw a line of glowing cylinders moving through the night; the cylinders were red-hot metal. “An office building appeared, close to the tracks. The big neon sign on its roof lighted the interiors of the coaches as they went by. It said: REARDEN STEEL.” (I II, 27)

Henry Rearden is one of the three main male protagonists of Atlas Shrugged. (He shares the initials of Howard Roark, I notice.) No nobility of heritage here. Hank Rearden is like Andrew Carnegie in that he begins in his teens with his own labor as virtually his only asset and becomes a very wealthy man, through acquisitions in steel-making. The fictional Mr. Rearden knows metallurgy, and he invents a new metal superior in many ways to steel and its existing alloys.

Rearden organizes his enterprise under social principles he publicly professes: He works only for his own profit and does so in the square way of making and selling products to parties willing and able to buy them. Mutual trade to mutual advantage. Voluntary trade, he stresses. He openly declares he does not wish to sell his products for less than his buyers are willing to pay for them (II IV, 480). He opposes governmental wage and price and output-level controls.

Francisco had pointed out to Rearden that money is made what value it is by thinking, productive persons. “To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade his effort in return” (II II, 411). “The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality” (413).

The last of the three main male protagonists in Atlas Shrugged is John Galt. In his radio speech, he gives the first full voice of Rand’s mature philosophy. Within this fictional radio broadcast, she drafts a picture of the worker in a modern factory. The worker is paid not only for his or her intelligent labor, but for efforts of all the productive geniuses who brought the factory about, such as industrialists and engineers, even scientists who made discoveries pertinent to the joint production. She rightly gives a nod to savers who made the loans for capital investment possible. She rightly portrays the worker as receiving returns more than possible were he working on a deserted island. She neglects to notice that were Hank Rearden stranded on a deserted island, he too would take a big cut in possibilities. She paints a picture of a Rearden in modern industrial society as a bestower of gift, with workers and customers resting on his shoulders, never also him resting on theirs, and she lapses into taking him as not really receiving his full market worth (III VII, 1064–65).

Rearden to Francisco after the latter’s speech about money and goodness: “It was more than gratitude, and I needed gratitude; it was more than admiration, and I needed that, too; . . . it will take me days to think of all that it’s given me—but one thing I know: I needed it” (II II, 417). Hear, hear! A Rearden makes in the market all his market due. The only short-change of such a person (besides any disproportionate taxes) is not receiving admiration for the virtue of their work and not fully themselves knowing that that is virtue, indeed the best within us.

On one occasion, Francisco says to Rearden: “You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life” (II III, 437). This is sleight-of-hand in Rand’s argument. That selfishness has been defended from Kant to Emerson to all sorts of folks around one today. Sweeping away an easy straw man will not do for Rand to win alert minds to her innovative morality of self-interest and moral virtue of capitalism.

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Kindred Souls

Dagny, Francisco, Rearden, and Danneskjöld, a fourth protagonist, rescue Galt from a government torture facility. Rearden is shot in the shoulder in the process. Galt says to him “Thank you, Hank.” Rearden replies “If you understand that I acted for my own sake, you know that no gratitude is required.” Galt rejoins “That is why I thank you” (III X, 1157).

Galt and Rearden are friends. They have brotherly love for each other in a close and elaborate way. Galt’s rejoinder says that he appreciates that Rearden is a person who risked life and limb to rescue him, but only because Rearden (by hypothesis) so acted only from his own self-interest. Galt can, under Rand’s ethical egoism as set out in Atlas Shrugged, take pleasure in the experience of seeing Rearden acting only from self-interest in daring action. Likewise, Rearden or anyone can take heart in the excellences of John Galt.

Rand had it, further, that one would not be properly helping another person, including risking life or limb for them, if one did so merely from the (common, erroneous) view that the beneficiary has a standing claim-right on one for help, with this claim being based simply on suffering or need. Call that reason for helping someone duty-help. Rand’s contrast class of reasons for helping someone, call esteem-help: help by “your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle. . . . If you choose to help a man who suffers, do it only on the ground of his virtues, of his fight to recover, of his rational record, or of the fact that he suffers unjustly” (III VII, 1059–60).

Rand would seem to have gotten herself into an untenable position with the implication that had some fellows from the local Rotary Club—where the motto is “Service above Self”— happened by, gathered there was suffering they might relieve, and rescued Galt, risking their own life and limb: they should not be thanked. I think there is an honest and easy way to loosen the conundrum. Give up the idea that there are any people, aside from psychotics, who are purely morality-of-sacrifice (or for that matter, purely “mystics of spirit” [supernaturalists] or purely “mystics of muscle” [dialectical materialists or behaviorists]). None. Then you sensibly presume in each at least some degree of rescue-reasons in the batch you take for proper ones.

Philosophic traditions down from the Greeks have constructed arguments to conclude that just acts are good for the agent (the self). Rand makes her try. “Every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly” (III VII, 1019). Judgment is rightly and selfishly judgment by oneself. Objectivity in identification is part of one’s selfish good. Consonance of one’s acts on objects with one’s judgments about those objects is also part of one’s selfish good. However, I say, Rand did not get hold of all the important fundamental constitution of the self and its relation to others. There’s the rub.

Even were Rand successful in deriving a social virtue such as justice purely from self-interest, is it the case that the only alternatives in helping are the specifics in duty-help v. esteem-help v. their mixture? Is brotherly love, close or remote, reducible to rational self-love? That rational self-love is good, I do not question. That brotherly love is reducible to rational animality, I do not question, only what is this rational animal that is you and me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some good non-fiction philosophical resources on friendship:

Friendship – A Philosophical Reader (1993) edited by Neera Kapur Badhwar.

Ancient and Medieval Concepts of Friendship (2014) edited by Suzanne Stern-Gillet and Gary M. Gurtler.

Aquinas on Friendship (2007) by Daniel Schwartz.

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You mention that "Philosophic traditions down from the Greeks have constructed arguments to conclude that just acts are good for the agent (the self)." A good example of this can be found in Cicero's book, On Friendship (Laelius de Amicitia). In it Cicero states that "the very essence of friendship" is "a common set of beliefs, aspirations, and opinions." (p 31). He further states that friendship is only possible between those who "act and live so that their lives give proof of faithfulness, integrity, fairness, and generosity; and who are free from any low passion, greed, or violence; and are of great strength of character," (p 37). Most important for true friendship, however, is virtue and "virtue, too, loves itself," (p 165); in conclusion he states, "I say it is virtue that creates and preserves friendships. Virtue is the source of compatibility, stability, and permanence." (p 169)
Cicero's stance would seem to be one that in most respects is consistent with Rand's view as it prominently does not depend on "service above self", but is consistent with integrity and treating others with respect while acting virtuously.

Quotes are all from How to be a Friend: An Ancient Guide to True Friendship by Marcus Tullius Cicero, trans. by Philip Freeman. Princeton University Press, 2018.

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Movers, Prime and Immovable

Chapter IV of Atlas Shrugged is titled “The Immovable Movers.” Rand opens the chapter with the following paragraph: “Motive power—thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight—was its first need; motive power, to keep that building standing; movement, to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.” (64)

In that chapter are the lines: “She had always been—she closed her eyes with a faint smile of amusement and pain—the motive power of her own happiness” (65). This thought comes to her in an episode of wishing (after a day of learning that her capable contractor for rail construction of her Rio Norte Line in Colorado has decided to close his business and has vanished) “to find a joy outside, the wish to be held as the passive spectator by some work or sight of greatness. Not to make it, she thought, but to accept; not to begin, but to respond; not to create, but to admire. I need it to let me go on, she thought, because joy is one’s fuel” (65). She turned that evening to listening to her phonograph record of a concerto to give her the feeling she wanted to experience just then. This music was “like a voice saying: there is no necessity for pain . . . why, then, is the worst pain reserved for . . . we who hold the love and secret of joy?” (67).

After days that formed a string of enormous obstacles, especially from a choking governmental directive, Dagny is with Hank Rearden at his mills, where they talk of how to accomplish what is needed for bright developments underway in Colorado, and they talk of all the new human possibilities opened by Rearden’s new metal: “She looked at him in the exact moment when he turned to look at her. They stood close to each other. She saw, in his eyes, that he felt as she did. If joy is the aim and the core of existence, she thought, and if that which has the power to give one joy is always guarded as one’s deepest secret, then they had seen each other naked in that moment.” (87) The chapter concludes with the line: “Dagny” he said, “whatever we are, it’s we who move the world and it’s we who’ll pull it through” (88).

In proclaiming joy to be the aim and core of existence, Rand meant the aim and core of human living-existence. “Happiness is the successful state of life” (1014). Ultimate basis of successful human existence, of successful human life, is recognition, in mind and in act, of all-encompassing existence: “Existence exists” is the root of her moral code. Wish to escape that axiom is the root of disastrous moral codes alternative to hers (1015). Existence and consciousness of existence are, in Rand’s mature philosophy, “irreducible primaries” broadly implied in any human action and knowledge, at all stages of development (1016). “My morality . . . is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live” (1018).

It is well known that Immovable Mover is a conception down from Plato/Aristotle. Likewise from Aristotle is Prime Mover, which conception and name Rand turned to human constitution in The Fountainhead. Therein she portrays Howard Roark as an end in himself, as an originator only secondarily concerned with others in his creative achievement. Such a human being is not concerned with others “in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his desires” (HR XVIII, 740).

“The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself” (737).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'll be continuing the material in this post with a close look at Aristotle on his conception of Prime Mover and his reasons adduced for showing the existence of Prime Mover, along with comparison to Rand's transplant and transformations of the conception, in the ETHICS thread "Rand and the Greeks."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

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For the New Intellectual

Three years after Atlas Shrugged was published, Rand penned the essay “For the New Intellectual.” It is interesting to compare and contrast the analysis of philosophical and psychological archetypes in Galt’s Speech—Mystics of Muscle/Mystics of Spirit—with the types Attilas/Witchdoctors in FNI. In the present note I’ll not take that on, and I’ll not take on their relation to the broad philosophical types Peikoff frames in his book DIM. Certainly, in FNI and in Atlas, Rand was affirming, against many philosophies, the equal reality and virtuous unity of mind and body.

There is much that is interesting and much that is suspect in Rand’s FNI story of the history of philosophy and in her account of how philosophic ideas move the world. That’s something else I can’t address just now.

I want to suggest in this note only that in FNI, Rand articulates one profound way in which her philosophy is a corrective to philosophies boosting Attila/Witchdoctor tendencies and in which her philosophy is a profound intellectual defense of humans as rational workers, producers, and traders. There is a cohort of that way, a second profound way of Rand contra Plato and Aristotle and contra much other philosophical thought to our own time, a second line in thorough defense of rational worker, producer, and trader. I want to notice that second way.

Rand’s first way is the Primacy of Existence.* By that phrase, she meant (i) the universe exists independently of any consciousness and (ii) things have natures independently of consciousness. Along with that idea is her Existence is Identity. This restriction contracts the Existence she would have as primary, contracts from traditional Being, where the latter comes in two forms qualified and unqualified. There is no such thing as the unqualified existent in Rand’s view of widest reality. So an older philosophy committed to primacy of being over mind (say, over over human mind anyway) could be very far from Rand’s picture of the primacy of existence over (any and all) consciousness.

The second way, of which, in my view, Rand does not make enough hay in her critique of the course of philosophy from the Greeks to today is her: Primacy of Physical Life over Value. (Bertrand Russell noted somewhere I cannot recall that philosophies can be divided between those giving primacy to value over existence—Plato and Kant for sure—and philosophies to the contrary, such as his own.) Rand realized explicitly that her positive proposal for the basis of value and her scheme of morality drafted upon that basis was ready for adoption by anyone coming to realize the primacy of existence with respect consciousness, including valuation-consciousness, human or divine. But when looking at classical philosophies in contrast to hers, I think there is rich work not yet done: explicitly laying out their contrast with her primacy of physical life over value.

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Andrew Bernstein has oft suggested a value intoxicated being as a 'goal' or practice of the morality of reason. In the afore mentioned context of "primacy of physical life over value", extrapolated from an analogous primacy of existence over consciousness, the role of conceptual consciousness is also touched upon in Galt's Speech to define identities and discover causal relationships. Primacy of physical life over value, as structured, suggests valuing the primacy of physical life more. Is this another recursive structure established on the same/similar metaphysical basis as morality?

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No. Or anyway those would be secondary parallel patterns.

I am not referring to any analogical relation to ‘Primacy of Existence to Consciousness.’ Simply to Rand’s thesis in Atlas: “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept ‘Value’ possible” (1013). This is introduced before Rand’s layout in the Speech of her axiomatics of Existence/Consciousness and Identity/Identification, and it is fully understandable in its context without having yet been introduced to her most fundamental metaphysical scheme.

Her use of “concept” in the sentence quoted in the preceding paragraph here, I should add, as one can see from its context in the Speech, is not meant to direct one’s consideration to those concepts as concepts, but to the referents of the concepts Life and Value in existential, concrete reality. The profound exclusive residence of value in life, fundamentally physical life, is reflected in the profound dependence of the concept Value on the concept Life.

Just before the opening of the Speech, where Rand will lead with characterization of living existence and the necessity of human mind for human living existence, she has the action scene in which Hank Rearden carries in his arms the dying government man, the young man Tony. There is enacted the absoluteness of life and death and the need for right thinking for life.

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That helped delineate the thought line, especially the reference to the final scene of the wet-nurse.

The For the New Intellectual post had introduced "primacy of physical life", and a quick search showed that the phrase had already gathered some 'social' traction.

The Research CD provides a return for "primacy near life" that expanded on this in a literary sense from Chapter 6 of The Romantic Manifesto (105):

Such issues as the fact that the primacy of values in human life is not an irreducible primary, that it rests on man's faculty of volition, and, therefore, that the Romanticists, philosophically, were the champions of volition (which is the root of values) and not of emotions (which are merely the consequences)—were issues to be defined by philosophers, who defaulted in regard to esthetics as they did in regard to every other crucial aspect of the nineteenth century.

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Thanks, Greg, for this find and setting it down here. In that essay “What is Romanticism?” (1969), Rand portrayed a Romanticism emblematic of individual human life as volitional development of self-character in values and in higher cognitions and as volitional in actions under that sort of self-constitution. This is in contradistinction from the life-nature of any other animals and of Naturalistic literature emblematic of taking human life diminished in those distinctive manners beyond all other animals. So I take the “primacy of value” in life, in this essay, as “primacy of chosen values” in a human life. And such volitional formations and acts are contoured within and empowered by primacy of existence in mental outlook.

This essay, as in Branden’s essay “The Literary Method of Ayn Rand” (1961), tackles additionally assimilation of the distinction of Romanticism (and Rand’s Romantic Realism) from Classicism. I don’t know how well or poorly these characterizations of and contradistinctions for Romanticism stand up in comparison with analyses offered in the wider literature.

One strand in early German romanticism was a sense of completeness in earthly human existence. That is surely one thing strongly conveyed in The Fountainhead at its conclusion and in Atlas Shrugged at Dagny’s climax in the tunnel with John Galt and at the end with Galt raising his arm to the starry sky, blessing the earth and human being.

It is a sideline curiosity to me that throughout her essay Rand uses the terms “volitional faculty” and not “free will”. In Galt’s speech, she had him refer to “that which you call ‘free will’ . . . .” (my emphasis). In ordinary conversation, or in an oration to equals, one uses “you” as meaning merely the same as “one” such as in saying “you get a hard crust for the pie if you don’t use enough shortening and try to compensate with more water.” But the tenor of Galt’s Speech is not an oration for an audience taken mainly as equals. It is the tenor of ideal man come down, rather like Prometheus, to help somewhat lesser and pretty ignorant, messed up beings. Rand seems to avoid casting her own philosophy as embracing free will flat out; rather, she seems to keep a little distance from free will (as with Galt’s distance in “you”), preferring to cast free choices and decisions, in her careful, public writings, as “volitional”. (In personal journal notes of 1934 and 1947, she talks of free will directly, although there she is grappling with various untenable ways of conceiving such a will. The Branden 1961 essay, which is in Who Is Ayn Rand?, uses “free will” throughout in distinction of Romanticism from Naturalism and as mark of the distinctively human.)

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Posted (edited)

I’ve followed up on the last paragraph of the preceding post.

My American Heritage dictionary defines volition as:

  1. An act of willing, choosing, or deciding.
  2. A conscious choice; decision.
  3. The power or capability of choosing; the will.

On their surface, one might slide into thinking those definitions come to free will. The debates over free will/determinism/compatibilism, however, are about whether and what sorts of freedom are behind willings, choices, and decisions. So in common usage volition is not equivalent to free will in a full-bodied sense. That is, volition does not mean free volition, but leaves open the controversy of whether and which volitions are free.

When one looks in the index of The Virtue of Selfishness or of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand for free will, one is simply directed to see volition. Peikoff speaks of free will in OPAR (55), but clearly volition (meaning free volition) is his preferred term of art in expressing Rand’s theory. He remarks at the end of his discussion (55–72) that Rand’s layout of (free) volition, joining it inalienably to the conceptual power, fits this fundamental sort of freedom smoothly into the natural world and removes it from its modern refuge in constructs supernatural. Because of its common residence in distinctly religious frameworks, one might think it better to shift its name from free will to (free) volition in shifting the thing itself from its religious sanctuary into the light of plain day.

Rand and subsequent Objectivists have used the term volition idiosyncratically in taking it to mean always free volition. Some of us, when young, first learned the term volition from writings of Rand and Branden and were not awakened to its meaning in the wider educated culture until we opened the dictionary on the term. This disparity is no great problem, I’d say.

Blackwell’s A Companion to Ayn Rand (2016) indexes free will, and under volition the Index simply directs one to free will and to the subsidiary volitional under the entry reason. In his Chapter “A Being of Self-Made Soul,” Onkar Ghate has a subsection titled “Free Will” (107–12) with an endnote 9 in which he states: “Rand uses the terms ‘free will’ and ‘volition’ interchangeably, and I will follow suit.” (I see that incorrect conjugation of the verb to be, first person, simple future, in many scholarly books from some high class presses these days. Still, if you would like to avoid irritating some of the elderly, please use I shall and we shall for simple future tense when writing formally.)

Ghate’s presentation is good (107–12), and he relies on and quotes from the Rand and Branden compositions that are included among the Objectivist references on free will that he lists in that endnote 9. Among those references, Rand, Peikoff, and Binswanger, had stuck with volition in preference to free will. Branden had traded expressly in free will all along. The Rand references are to Galt’s Speech and “The Objectivist Ethics,” and the Peikoff is OPAR. The Branden references are four articles in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist journal. The Binswanger reference is to a 1991 monograph in which he redrafted those Branden contributions and made some additions and cast all in a nicely biocentric way. Branden’s compositions were incorporated into his The Psychology of Self-Esteem – A New Concept of Man’s Psychological Nature (1969). That book indexes volition, and has for free will: see volition. Binswanger’s monograph treatment is incorporated into the “Free Will” chapter of his How We Know – Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation (2014). That book simply indexes free will/volition. (Binswanger’s monograph and book and Peikoff’s OPAR never write the name Branden, but with the Blackwell book, that dark public stamp of personal animosities in major Objectivist scholarly work has been dispelled with honest light.)

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Posted (edited)
On 4/1/2021 at 4:00 AM, Boydstun said:

. . .

Chapter IV of Atlas Shrugged is titled “The Immovable Movers.” Rand opens the chapter with the following paragraph: “Motive power—thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight—was its first need; motive power, to keep that building standing; movement, to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.” (64)

In that chapter are the lines: “She had always been—she closed her eyes with a faint smile of amusement and pain—the motive power of her own happiness” (65). This thought comes to her in an episode of wishing (after a day of learning that her capable contractor for rail construction of her Rio Norte Line in Colorado has decided to close his business and has vanished) “to find a joy outside, the wish to be held as the passive spectator by some work or sight of greatness. Not to make it, she thought, but to accept; not to begin, but to respond; not to create, but to admire. I need it to let me go on, she thought, because joy is one’s fuel” (65). She turned that evening to listening to her phonograph record of a concerto to give her the feeling she wanted to experience just then. This music was “like a voice saying: there is no necessity for pain . . . why, then, is the worst pain reserved for . . . we who hold the love and secret of joy?” (67).

After days that formed a string of enormous obstacles, especially from a choking governmental directive, Dagny is with Hank Rearden at his mills, where they talk of how to accomplish what is needed for bright developments underway in Colorado, and they talk of all the new human possibilities opened by Rearden’s new metal: “She looked at him in the exact moment when he turned to look at her. They stood close to each other. She saw, in his eyes, that he felt as she did. If joy is the aim and the core of existence, she thought, and if that which has the power to give one joy is always guarded as one’s deepest secret, then they had seen each other naked in that moment.” (87) The chapter concludes with the line: “Dagny” he said, “whatever we are, it’s we who move the world and it’s we who’ll pull it through” (88).

In proclaiming joy to be the aim and core of existence, Rand meant the aim and core of human living-existence. “Happiness is the successful state of life” (1014). Ultimate basis of successful human existence, of successful human life, is recognition, in mind and in act, of all-encompassing existence: “Existence exists” is the root of her moral code. Wish to escape that axiom is the root of disastrous moral codes alternative to hers (1015). Existence and consciousness of existence are, in Rand’s mature philosophy, “irreducible primaries” broadly implied in any human action and knowledge, at all stages of development (1016). “My morality . . . is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live” (1018).

It is well known that Immovable Mover is a conception down from Plato/Aristotle. Likewise from Aristotle is Prime Mover, which conception and name Rand turned to human constitution in The Fountainhead. Therein she portrays Howard Roark as an end in himself, as an originator only secondarily concerned with others in his creative achievement. Such a human being is not concerned with others “in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his desires” (HR XVIII, 740).

“The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself” (737).

. . .

See further Prime Movers, Immovable Movers, Self-Movers

Edited by Boydstun
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