Max Learning Objectivism (Spoilers for AS & FH)

Topic Summary: A place for my notes and thoughts (and discussion of them) as I learn objectivism. To start with, this will mostly be based on (LO).


CF relevance: Self-evident

Do you want unbounded criticism? Yes

Note: I won’t post anything here for a few hours yet. I might also post some other ideas that aren’t directly notes from LO, e.g.: I think there’s immediate and substantial benefit in reading AS and I want to share that and why I think it.

I’m planning on posting notes here more frequently than for each chapter.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think to post the notes I’ve already made. These notes are from 2 days ago (none from y’day):

learn oism: ch 1

There’s, apparently, something bad about asking who John Galt is, which bothers people. But why would asking about a person’s name be bothersome?

it’s the meaning behind the q of the name that bothers ppl. early on (while the Comet is stopped mb) it’s explained by an engineer/crew as something like ‘why ask questions that no one can answer?’

it bothers Eddie (like Dagney and some other heroic characters) b/c they refuse to think that there’s no hope / that they can’t do something. they believe in themselves too much and “who is john galt?” questions/challenges their confidence. (eventually we find out exactly how this question relates to their broader struggle: trying survive the looters, but their surviving is also how the looters survive. this is v similar to the way that Rearden’s is blackmailed – it only works b/c he is giving Lillian the weapon)

What kind of beggar isn’t interested in whether he gets money? That’s something we’ll learn a lot about in this book (if we pay enough attention and give the ideas enough thought).

  • Much later, James Taggart gives $100 to a beggar who doesn’t care either.
  • the Q “what’s the use?” (or similar) is repeated throughout the book, which has a similar meaning to “who is john galt?”. it’s questioning the futility of something, e.g., why should the beggar care b/c the dime Eddit gave him won’t change anything.
  • that ppl don’t really want/care to live is brought up a few times in the book – the beggar doesn’t really care if he lives or not.

The bum is weary and resigned, but is (or was) intelligent. In what kind of world does an intelligent person end up as a beggar? And how does that world compare to our own world?

Note: I don’t think I’m going to answer every Q – or mb I’ll come back to the ones I skip later.

He is, as the title puts it, the mythical Atlas, who holds up the world on his shoulders, and he decided to shrug and let the world fall, rather than be a party to major irrationality and help sustain the irrationality.

Didn’t realize this.

thought: by part 2, i thought that all the characters were flawed in some way. Particularly: I wondered “who are the heros?” and, unlike FH and Roark, AS characters (before JG) seemed flawed in some way.

What were each characters flaws? Did I make a mistake with any of them? If I did, that might change things.

AS is less hand-holdy than FH in this way – it’s pretty obvious in FH that Roark is the hero. In AS, most of the characters go through some arc (or they have gone through one and we learn about that via flashbacks).

It’s important that goods be made for men. That’s a pro-human attitude, wanting men to produce things for their own use in order to improve their lives. There are other attitudes possible, like creating objects to sacrifice to the Gods, some of which are illustrated in Atlas Shrugged.

I didn’t notice this.

“The worst thing about dishonest people is what they think of as honesty,” [Gail Wynand] said. “I know a woman who’s never held to one conviction for three days running, but when I told her she had no integrity, she got very tight-lipped and said her idea of integrity wasn’t mine; it seems she’d never stolen any money.…” [The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand]

This quote is copied from Lying · Elliot Temple. I’ve never really understood this quote. I let myself think I did for a while, though. When I tried to think about it, I focused more on “it seems she’d never stolen any money”, and I think (now) that I missed the point.

I never tried to actually use any of the techniques I learned in Tutoring Max – like breaking down the grammar, doing an outline, building a tree of the ideas and how they connect, or even just discussing the problem.

I think it’d be worth my time to analyze the quote. (Maybe also why Elliot chose it and chose to start and end it where he did – but that seems harder.) I’m not going to analyze it now (quite tired), so I’m posting it here as a reminder.

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Also from FH about honesty (my bold):

“Why are you a good architect? Because you have certain standards of what is good, and they’re your own, and you stand by them. I want a good hotel, and I have certain standards of what is good, and they’re my own, and you’re the one who can give me what I want. And when I fight for you, I’m doing—on my side of it—just what you’re doing when you design a building. Do you think integrity is the monopoly of the artist? And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch out of your neighbor’s pocket? No, it’s not as easy as that. If that were all, I’d say ninety-five percent of humanity were honest, upright men. Only, as you can see, they aren’t. Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presupposes the ability to think. Thinking is something one doesn’t borrow or pawn. And yet, if I were asked to choose a symbol for humanity as we know it, I wouldn’t choose a cross nor an eagle nor a lion and unicorn. I’d choose three gilded balls.”

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Some reflection about this quote and my time here (FI/CF).

One thing I love about AS is that Rand explains – during Galt’s speech – how morality can be built up from the simplest of principles / axioms. I’ve wanted to be able to do that for a long time – I at least knew that it was important. Some of my ideas from pre-AS are a bit similar to Rand’s. Like: I knew that a morality that destroys its civilization was wrong, that’s similar to Rand’s ideas about living, thinking beings needing to survive (but I got the civilization bit wrong). The similarities mb helped me (some of the time my ideas sorta worked), but all the errors meant I couldn’t make the full chain of reasoning work. At best I knew some of the links (between ideas), but I never could have succeeded. There were errors that were so deep – I’d done so much work to retrofit ideas together – that I don’t think I ever would have been able to reverse engineer consistent principles. So, if I hadn’t read AS, then I would have kept going down that path, making a bigger and bigger tangled knot of ideas, that sorta sometimes worked but also trapped me.

(Note: the reason that some of my ideas worked wasn’t because I was good enough at thinking to come up with something half right, it was because I was bad enough at thinking to pick up only on a few good points from a few good thinkers. The rest was stuff I made up, or things I learned from other poor thinkers.)

With the benefit of hindsight: I think my struggle to understand morality without reading AS is similar to my struggle to understand and communicate ideas without learning grammar. I just didn’t have the skills to build something up from first principles, and I (mostly/often) wasn’t willing to listen to the advice I got. I couldn’t write from first principles, and I couldn’t think from first principles. I was always going to be overreaching.

One thing that occurs to me here, WRT schooling, is the idea that there are kids that are good at english and kids that are good at math/science. It’s like every kid is one, or the other, or neither, but very rarely both. That divide (between STEM and the arts) is super harmful. I think it harmed me – I was a science-y kid. I only changed my mind about English as a subject in the last 2 years of high-school. That probably helped me later, but it was too late for me to learn grammar (from the schooling system). Instead I kept building more and more elaborate ideas about what was good writing – made worse by the sort of advice given to students and the style of writing that’s rewarded. Maybe that’s where the mess that is academese comes from, it’s a knot of ideas that traps academics: they literally can’t write anything else without (at least temporarily) forgetting how to write and going back to first principles. It is the natural consequence of academia (at least the way it’s usually done).

Above, I said:

[…] how morality can be built up from the simplest of principles / axioms. I’ve wanted to be able to do that for a long time – I at least knew that it was important.

I say that it was rly important to me, but I’m not sure I’ve ever discussed it. So I went to go check the FI archives to look at my old posts. I didn’t find that, but I did find some other things in the earliest threads I was involved with.

On 15 Sep 2017, at 8:04, Elliot Temple wrote:

i think Max doubts the importance of these books and wants more demonstrations of their important, previews of their contents, arguments relating important ideas to the books, etc. it’d be especially helpful if he offered initial criticism of the books. why doesn’t he prioritize them above everything else? there must be some things about them he thinks are not so good compared to what i think. but he hasn’t been sharing those disagreements.

Sep 15, 2017, Anonymous FI wrote:

you may not be emotionally or intellectually ready to face this – that
the ideas you value are actually deeply incompatible with BoI,
Objectivism, etc. and it’d be hard to explain it to you due to your lack
of background knowledge.

i think it’d be better to start with e.g. discussing FoR/BoI/FH/AS in

The answers that I needed had been there the whole time. The problem was that they weren’t the answers that I wanted. (really, the answer that I wanted was “you’re a great thinker, Max”. hmm, what would happen if an anon account said that to everyone who wanted to hear it?)

Fri, Sep 15, 2017, Elliot Temple wrote:

On Sep 14, 2017, at 5:48 PM, Max Kaye wrote:

I’ve also abandoned many views I used to have.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a long way to go, but I’m very committed to fallibilsm. BoI gave me the tools to reject (and understand why I should reject) all other competing philosophies, so between a choice of the ideas (outside fallibilism) and fallibilism, I’ll take the latter. That also doesn’t mean that journey will be easy.

Another way of looking at that is that there’s nowhere else for me to go besides through that criticism.

dozens of people have said similar stuff. they rarely last long. but good luck, best wishes.

I am proud that I am lasting.

More LO from today.

It’s the twilight, he thought; I hate the twilight.

Here, Eddie is already giving up somewhat, despite his attempt at self-discipline (in the same paragraph), and despite knowing he needs to solve this problem.

Eddie isn’t the type to give up easily. He’s been facing this problem for years, and failing. That’s taken a toll on his fighting spirit.

Why does this show that Eddie’s giving up? Not sure yet. From AS with some context:

Eddie Willers pulled his shoulders straight, in conscientious self-discipline. He had to stop this, he thought; he was beginning to imagine things. Had he always felt it? He was thirty-two years old. He tried to think back. No, he hadn’t; but he could not remember when it had started. The feeling came to him suddenly, at random intervals, and now it was coming more often than ever. It’s the twilight, he thought; I hate the twilight.

So he’s blaming the twilight for his fear, dread, unease. He’s giving up on figuring out what the problem rly is. But twilight happens every day – how can the sun setting be responsible for the unease, esp when he’s just admitted to himself that the feeling hasn’t always been there? He’s giving up by saying/believing something that makes no sense. He’s evading whatever it is causing the feeling.

The danger is bad philosophy, and it takes good philosophy to protect values like food.

I hadn’t ever really thought of something like food being a value. I guess that implied in food as a value is like reliable and adequate supply of food.

Are values, like, unlimited in number? Like, I could have lots and lots of values: food, shelter, coding, climbing, writing, quality sleep, good methods of approaching problems, etc.

And how do values and principles relate to each-other? They are related, but you can’t have an unlimited number of principles. Values need to be compatible (non-contradictory) with principles, but do they need to be derived from them? I don’t think so, like there’s room for ppl to have different values – the heroes in AS have different values, which plays out in their choices (like Ragnar’s choice of what to do is explicitly mentioned as something other heroes disagree with).

This is one of many uses of light-related words for positive symbolism.

Reminds me of an AS quote – I liked “the sunlight from the water” enough to write that bit down.

She did not want to look at Francisco. She felt that his presence seemed more intensely real when she kept her eyes away from him, almost as if the stressed awareness of herself came from him, like the sunlight from the water.

“stressed awareness of herself” is the sunlight, and Francisco is the water (mirror). The awareness itself (knowledge, or the enablement of knowledge) is the good thing here. You need good people around you to bring out the best in yourself. Well, it helps, at least.

Note: check descriptions of Galt later – does sunlight illuminate him, or is he the sunlight?

Glowing like the sun is good, but being harsh is bad. Right? So apparently there’s a contradiction here! The negativity people have towards harshness is something Rand questions.

Science labs and hospitals are two places that have harsh lighting, and both are places where how well one can see really matters. Other descriptions of that lighting are cold and bright. Ppl often like their homes to have soft, warm, dim lighting – that makes homes feel more comfortable, welcoming, etc. Ppl who are negative towards harshness are probs positive towards soft, warm, comforting words instead – this makes sense and the analogy holds WRT ideas, thinking, science, etc.

We’ll find out more about Dagny Taggart later, and be able to judge for ourselves in what ways she is and isn’t harsh, and whether that’s good. (Note you’ll have to remember to consider this issue again later. You’ll learn more if you take notes to keep track of issues to revisit.)

Note: look for when Dagny is harsh or not and about what.

The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, “Whatever is right,” and added, “You ought to do something great… I mean, the two of us together.” “What?” she asked. He said, “I don’t know. That’s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains.” “What for?” she asked.

Most ppl would see What for? as like a confrontational thing that means someone is taking an opposing side or something. Maybe not in the context of long-time friends, but definitely in general.

Dagny asking this is notable for two reasons:

  1. it matters that there’s a purpose behind actions and what that purpose is. Eddie is suggesting that winning battles, saving ppl, or climbing mountains are things satisfying “Whatever is right” and “something great”, and that they should do those things together. He wants to achieve things, but doesn’t know what they are (“whatever”, “something”). He’s sorta honest that he doesn’t know, but he’s just falling back to other ppl’s answers without trying to understand what’s behind those decisions. Also, Eddie cares more about doing something with Dagny than he does about what it is or why he should – he’s dishonest about that (he values her but doesn’t say it, which is why she can’t love him like HR/JG).

  2. Dagny, by comparison to Eddie, is more honest about not knowing answers to big/hard questions and doesn’t try to leap to answers before having a better understanding of the right questions to ask. But she also has already given an answer – but we don’t get that dialog. Instead we get Eddie’s POV: “the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up.” (emph mine). I think Eddie might not remember what Dagny said there (in part because he works for TT), but the dialog that he does remember is about stuff that didn’t happen (winning battles / saving ppl) – the stuff he thinks he’s missed out on. Maybe that’s why he’s so protective of it.

Eddie is described “He listened in admiration and in wonder.” but he disagrees with Dagny about something: “Not just what you said.”

I think he still values those things. He still wants those things and isn’t willing to give them up. That’s why he never gets to GG.

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Are there any heroic characters in AS that are part of the Govt?

Some heroes and some villains are very rich (I’m not sure if it’s explicitly said, but I guess that Dagny and Jim are similarly wealthy, at least at the start. Jim makes some bad bets that Dagny doesn’t, though).

But in terms of like political power, I think those characters are only villains? The one exception to come to mind is Tony (Wet Nurse, Non-Absolute) – and his name is only used after his redemption, just before he dies.

It makes sense govt sympathizers are only villains: the heroes don’t want that kind of power. The heroes seek power over nature and the improvement of their own mind, power over their own lives, not power over men or power over other ppl’s lives.

Stadler was like a maybe-hero but he chose to side with the govt and it destroyed him. He could have been like Akston. That Stadler is a physicist not a philosopher doesn’t matter – Galt is evidence of that. It was Stadler’s lack of convictions and integrity that lead him down the wrong path.

Actually, it’d be a contradiction if any of the heroes were part of the govt or sided with it. And the closest character that comes to this has to reject the govt before his redemption and literally dies by govt thugs’ hands for it.

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I think that Dagny has flaws (besides her big mistake). While reading AS, I thought that Dagny was heroic, but not THE hero. (I wasn’t sure whether there would be a hero till around part 3 when Galt starts being a major, ‘on-screen’ character.)

I’m willing to discuss or debate this if anyone familiar with AS wants to. (If there’s a disagreement, there’s a good chance it’s a meaningful point.) I’m also willing to discuss whether Dagny’s big mistake (wanting to save TT as it was) was actually a mistake.

In LO Elliot says (referring to Dagny):

The hero is more interested in railroads than winning battles, saving people from fires, climbing mountains, or Sunday sermons. Is she right?

I think this means that in this scene, particularly Dagny is the hero. I agree she’s the hero of the scene.

I duckduckgo’d Dagney Taggart earlier today to check the spelling (it’s wrong in some early notes) and noticed that a link to sparknotes page for Dagny was in the results. I started reading it and thought it was bad enough to analyze.

Dagny is remarkable in every way: beautiful, talented, determined, and highly intelligent. Her independent spirit leads her to trust her own judgment over public opinion. Though calmly rational, she is also tremendously passionate about her work and love. She is enormously successful as a woman in a man’s world. Rand presents her this way to demonstrate that rationality and great accomplishments are not gender-specific. Dagny’s defining characteristic is a supreme self-confidence. She is keenly aware of her own abilities and always knows the right thing to do. But her confidence is also her flaw. She leaves the strikers and rejoins the real world because she feels she can single-handedly save her railroad and by extension her world. No one person can do this, and her realization comes nearly too late, as she is the last to join the strike. She is also flawed in her optimism about people. Until the end, when she learns the looters will torture Galt to make him help them, she continues to believe they can be made to understand their errors.

This is so wrong.

To start with: that she’s beautiful is not the most important thing about her. In fact, 3/4 of those qualities (“beautiful, talented, determined, and highly intelligent”) are direct consequences of her ideas. 0/4 of them are a source of her success.

Some bits seem factually correct, like some parts of:

Though calmly rational, she is also tremendously passionate about her work and love. She is enormously successful as a woman in a man’s world.

But around and between the facts there’s lots of negative stuff about Dagny / Objectivism in there. Each of those two sentences is, as a sentence, wrong. It’s only fragments that can be considered correct, and only by ignoring the flaws of the author. Like it says that being rational is in opposition to being passionate about work/love – which contradicts AS. “successful as a woman in a man’s world” is like, sorta factually true with modern hindsight (“man’s world”) but I don’t think that’s how Rand thought about it. Dagny could be a feminist icon, but that’s not how she’s written nor why she was written the way she was. Her being successful has nothing to do with her being a woman. Excluding her relationships, it’s mostly always a downside for her – that’s why she’s VP of Ops at TT instead of taking Jim’s place (and even if she did, would she stop doing things like going out to the construction site at Colorado? I don’t think so). Her being successful is a product of her mind – that’s the point! She didn’t succeed because she was some magic woman who could where other women couldn’t.

Moreover, the additional details “as a woman in a man’s world” qualify her success, which is substantive and meaningful in its own right. Her success isn’t important or notable because it was achieved by a woman – it’s important and notable in its own right.

There are things that sound reasonable on first-read, too, like:

Dagny’s defining characteristic is a supreme self-confidence.

Is it? Or is it her self-esteem? Or is it her determination to seek and seek until she finds answers? (e.g., the motor, pursuing Daniels) Or is it her sense of justice and righteousness? Can any of those things really be separated? Could she be some of them but not others?

She is keenly aware of her own abilities and always knows the right thing to do.

She thought she could save TT, and she thought that was right. The characters discuss how dangerous going back could be, so presumably there was risk to Dagny. That means she put her life in danger fighting a battle she couldn’t win.

But her confidence is also her flaw.

How, if not for the prior sentence being wrong?

She leaves the strikers and rejoins the real world because she feels she can single-handedly save her railroad and by extension her world. No one person can do this, and her realization comes nearly too late, as she is the last to join the strike.

Oh, so the author sorta knows there’s a flaw, and what it is, but doesn’t realize there’s a contradiction in what they’ve said? IDK, mb I’m jumping the gun with this one.

She is also flawed in her optimism about people. Until the end, when she learns the looters will torture Galt to make him help them, she continues to believe they can be made to understand their errors.

I’m not so sure about her optimism in ppl. She has a high regard for some ppl, but that’s not optimism. I don’t remember her thinking that the villains are redeemable. I think I do remember her believing that they won’t destroy everything before giving up. That she can outlast them.

She isn’t trying to save the people, and esp not the looters; she’s trying to save the railroad – her life’s work up till then.

I hadn’t really noticed before how into Galt people are. I know, offhand, that lots of things are named after Galt in some way, and his name is used to promote Objectivist stuff. But I don’t recall a single thing named after Dagny, except maybe a “Taggart Terminal” which isn’t named after her specifically. I knew some facts but I hadn’t put it together and noticed the problem. Maybe that’s because it’s so intuitive to me that Dagny is the most important character, so I had a hard time recognizing that other people don’t get it. To me, it’s similar to reading The Fountainhead and not noticing that Roark is the most important character, and focusing on someone else.

I think that’s really bad.

Dagny is the most interesting character and the best one to learn from or use as a role model. I identify primarily with her. Out of all the characters, I have the most traits in common with her. (The main exception is when she returns to the world from the Gulch. I’m less tied to the world than her and I identified more with Quentin Daniels’ response when asked about choosing the gulch or the world. A big world with millions of people is relevant to a transcontinental railroad, but if you want to have conversations with people then quality matters more than quantity.)

Rearden is a good role model too. If someone pays a lot of attention to him, and identifies with him the most, that’s OK. But Galt is not a good role model. He isn’t in the book enough. You don’t get to know him well enough. He’s too much of a fantasy. It’s a little like the fantasy relationships people have with romantic partners who they don’t know very well, where they make up the other person. His big speech is the author, Ayn Rand, sharing her ideas – not character development. Dagny and Rearden offer a lot more concretes, examples, traits, specifics, etc., than Galt does.

Dagny is a hero and is also the most main character, so she’s the most primary hero of the book. We see the world and story most through her eyes. Second is Rearden, not Galt. Rearden is also a hero and is the second most main character. Francisco is also a hero who you get to know better than Galt, so he would also make a better role model.

Related, people often speak of Roark’s time at the quarry, but I never see anyone talking about Dagny’s time at the cabin. (Tangentially, I also don’t see Objectivists talking about automatization of ideas much. Some Objectivism stuff, including politics and art, gets way more attention than other stuff. Some of the topic emphasis preferences a lot of people seem to have are bad.)

I wonder how much of it is sexism, and seeing Dagny as the prize, the princess to win, just because of her gender. That’s the same kind of cultural force that made her brother the President, not her. I’d understand if Dagny had a lot of scenes about her gender, and it told her story as a woman, and she kept being treated differently by sexists, then it’d make sense if that didn’t resonate with male readers. But there isn’t much female-specific stuff.


I think I might have the wrong meaning of “hero” – or don’t understand it enough. I explain what I think might have gone wrong at the end.

I agree Dagny is the most interesting and important character – the book is mostly about her journey accepting the fate of the railroad and the ~old world (w/ lots of other side ~quests thrown in). That’s made especially important when Rearden leaves.

WRT Galt, he is ultimately the person that Dagny admires the most, and is seen as the leader of the strike. He says “my strikers” and self-identifies as a teacher.[1] If ppl reading the book identified with Dagny some, wouldn’t they admire Galt? After reading your post, I agree naming things after Galt is missing the point – b/c they’re not naming something after the inspirational character. (I guess they get that from GG, or they’re just copying Dagny w/ the John Galt line.) Before reading your post I’m not so sure. While reading AS, I thought about naming stuff after things from the book (or basing a name on one of these things). Particularly: “Rearden’s Bracelet”, “Wyatt’s Torch”, and “The John Galt Line”. With the benefit of this hindsight, “Dagny’s Bracelet” and “The Dagny Taggart Line” would be more appropriate.

In the post you reply to, I say that Dagny has flaws. One of the goals that her being flawed meets, for AS’s structure/plot/philosophy, is to facilitate her development, and help the reader grasp the transition that she goes through (there are more important factors behind the way she’s written tho). Dagny’s journey seems to me to mirror an ideal reader: with principles but with more to learn. That’s why she has to be the last one “outside”; her integrity and determination (admiral qualities) are, in some ways, more resolute than any other character’s – at least in a way that the audience can understand on the first read.

AS’s philosophy (or like, explanation of oism) is closely linked to Dagny’s journey. If Atlas Shrugged could be reduced to Galt’s speech, then it would have been. And instead of being 4% of the book, it’d be 100% of it. Why the other 96%? Dagny makes the narrative work as philosophy. The most valuable thing about AS is that it uses the first 9/10ths to teach the reader how to understand Galt’s speech. It’s at the end for a reason. I think Rand knew that telling people, even with ~3 hrs of explanation, doesn’t work and wouldn’t work. Galt’s speech is the philosophical climax, but not the journey. I suspect that critics who claim there’s a bunch of boring philosophy at the end simply didn’t read the first 90%. AS is structured so that if you get to Galt’s speech, ~every aspect has a citation in the earlier parts; when I was remembering the examples that AS provided as pretext to the speech, Dagny, more than any other character, was involved. (Rearden 2nd, I think.) So, when I think about why I understand something from the speech, most of the time it’s Dagny’s pov/situation that I’m thinking of.

Galt is presented as basically a character without flaws (in the present). We find out about his history, in large part, via Dagny’s (and Rearden’s) journey that ends with finding the motor, and Dagny’s subsequent detective work and then research. She, more than any other (relevant) character, knows the value of a thing she found that she does not understand. (This is mb a metaphor for the reader finding oism and how they should pursue it)

We’re told that Galt is admirable more than we’re shown it (excluding the speech), e.g., Rearden’s letter to Dagny.

We’re shown that Dagny is admirable far more than we’re told it. It’s sorta like: Dagny is the character-vehicle of implicit knowledge and Galt the vehicle of explicit knowledge (though there’s lots of explicit stuff from Dagny, too)

Yes. Francisco’s role scares me, though. He is admirable, but I don’t think I could live like he was able to (in those circumstances, doing what he did). Not wrt d’Anconia Copper, but the playboy act.

WRT whether characters are heroes:

I think I’m biased by how I understand Roark and FH . I forgot that Roark had an arc (until just now), and I remembered him as an almost unchanging rock (mb a misunderstanding of integrity). So Galt is the obvious hero (in that light) b/c he does not go through much character development (the main exception being 20th C motors – but as readers we already have some context/understanding via Dagny and minor characters’ accounts, so not much time needs to be spent on Galt). That seems somewhat obviously broken to me now. Mb re-reading FH should be high on my list of things to prioritize.

  1. When you clamor for public ownership of the means of production, you are clamoring for public ownership of the mind. I have taught my strikers that the answer you deserve is only: ‘Try and get it.’


I think this is probably premature. I should keep going with AS but keep track of things to notice on a re-read of FH.

Critics of Objectivism often claim that it’s about “selfishness” and doesn’t consider other people.[1]

I think that, after reading AS, I am far more ready to accept that I should consider other people, that I did not, before, and to consciously pay attention to that consideration.

My guess is that a superficial reading of AS is that heroes seem to make judgements about people without consideration, and that the true meaning is closer to: the heroes make very considered judgements, but when they do so it’s based on yes/no considerations and automatization of the consideration. That’s why they’re consistent and accurate in their judgements.

  1. Edit: In my limited experience. I gather that this is common but I don’t know it. ↩︎

I should ask the question: does Dagny (et al) make judgements quickly? Always? In those times that it isn’t quick (if any), what things does she consider? Why does she make the judgement that she does?

Based on my first interpretation of what you wrote, I think that the critics are partly correct if they say that’s what Objectivism is about. Not to imply they understand Objectivism, but I read this as people criticizing Objectivism for conflicting with their own (altruistic, second-handed) philosophy.

To be fair, I’m not completely sure what you mean by “consider other people,” and I’m not completely sure what the quotes around “selfishness” were intended to mean.

Roark’s time at the quarry seems way more significant to me. People face decisions every day where they are asked to compromise their integrity in some way, and it is super heroic and inspirational and abnormal that Roark didn’t do it (given how big the reward was, given how “small” the compromise was). It’s hard for me to imagine myself doing what Roark did.

In contrast, by the time the world got so bad that Dagny decided to go to her cabin, it’s more obvious that that was a good choice. It’s easy for me to imagine myself going to the cabin as Dagny did, and it’s somewhat frustrating when she leaves.

I don’t know why you think this. I don’t think that recognizing it as a “man’s world” is something we only notice with modern hindsight. It was very clearly a man’s world in the book. That was a major part of what made the plot even work: the reason Dagny wasn’t president of the railroad is because she was a woman.

People back then knew that it was a man’s world and that women didn’t have the same opportunities as men. That isn’t just some new modern idea.

I’m not sure if you mean something else that I am missing.

I agree that Dagny wasn’t written in order to be a feminist icon. I don’t think Rand’s intention was to write a feminist book. But I don’t see how she isn’t a feminist icon.

I don’t understand what you mean here. I agree her success has nothing to do with her being a woman, and that being a woman is mostly a downside for her. Do you mean this stuff somehow contrasts with her being a feminist icon?

Right, her being successful is a product of her mind. Do you mean that you think feminist icons are supposed to be successful because they are women and not because of their mind or their talent or whatever?

This part is particularly confusing. Are you saying feminist icons are supposed to be magic women that are better than other women?

I don’t think that part qualifies or negates her success in some way. I think it adds to it. She was successful even though she was doing something that was harder than it would be for a man in the same position. She was more successful than most men despite being in a worse position. That isn’t saying that her success is somehow lesser because she was a woman and that her success wouldn’t be meaningful if she were a man. The success would be meaningful either way. But the fact that she was able to do it with a significant handicap makes it an even greater success.


This sounds like you mean a transition from flawed and bad in some ways to unflawed and good.

you seem to be saying that you think the hero should be someone who doesn’t go through any character development, who starts off unflawed and perfect, and just stays like that through the whole book.

Both of these views (Dagny transitioning from flawed to good, and the hero being perfect and unchanging) are very anti-Beginning of Infinity and anti-Popperian. They are anti-personal growth and change.

I think this is a really important issue. People hate admitting their flaws, they hate change and person growth. They want to just already be good. And so they sabotage any progress. They don’t want to let their ideas die in their place - they want to already have good ideas and they find it threatening & painful to have to admit that they have bad ideas and flaws.


I reviewed the posts in this thread (for my own organization / prioritization).

I think the most important topic to discuss atm is:

and the next most important things are:

  • the heroes topic more broadly
  • the Dagny as a feminist icon branch (everything in anon43s post)

raw notes:


morning review


  • look for when Dagny is harsh or not and about what
  • check descriptions of Galt later – does sunlight illuminate him, or is he the sunlight?
  • What were each characters flaws? Did I make a mistake with any of them? If I did, that might change things.
  • does Dagny (et al) make judgements quickly? Always? In those times that it isn’t quick (if any), what things does she consider? Why does she make the judgement that she does?

Qs I skipped

The bum is weary and resigned, but is (or was) intelligent. In what kind of world does an intelligent person end up as a beggar? And how does that world compare to our own world?

It’s important that goods be made for men. That’s a pro-human attitude, wanting men to produce things for their own use in order to improve their lives. There are other attitudes possible, like creating objects to sacrifice to the Gods, some of which are illustrated in Atlas Shrugged.

I could write about this – e.g., project x, what was that made for?

Honesty Quotes

  • Wynand quote
  • Kent Lansing quote

FH aside: I read a bit of The Fountainhead (film) - Wikipedia. There are some interesting things under “Production” (Rand writing the script, modifications by her or others, Rand visiting the set). If I looked into this more I’d go to the sources and/or search for new ones.


note on FH comment

What about Wynand? Kent Lansing? Dominique? Enright?

DT/JG as heroes

  • Defn - Hero Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster
    • the principal character in a literary or dramatic work

    • the central figure in an event, period, or movement

    • Both defns: Dagny is the hero of AS (the novel)
    • Latter defn: Galt is the hero of the strike (in the world of the novel)

Does seeing Galt as the hero reflect some desire of people to live in the world of AS? like that they want to literally go through that?

  • replies to posts

“idol” as synonym for “hero”

under linked hero defn:

an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol

I search FH for idol (3 instances) and AS (10). How is “idol” used compared to “heroic” and similar words in the novels? Who uses the word in dialog?

(In FH, “idol” is only ever used around Toohey, the last instance being in the afterword by Peikoff)

Dagny as Feminist Icon (and related)

  • Read a few more times, figure out crux

  • Note: seems reasonably important, mb 2nd to “Both of these views […] are very anti-Beginning of Infinity and anti-Popperian. They are anti-personal growth and change.”

Most important thing atm?


  • Review Dagny & the cabin
  • “Critics of Objectivism often claim that it’s about “selfishness” and doesn’t consider other people” branch


Yeah. I’m convinced that’s wrong now.

I’m going to try figuring out what you mean, slowly and step by step.

There are two views I’ve expressed. These two views are each infallibilist. (Also, if Dagny is the hero then they’re contradictory w/ each-other.) Each view has contradictions with: BoI, Popper, and personal growth and change.

The view about Dagny’s journey is that she starts out flawed but becomes unflawed by the end, and that the unflawed state is good/right/admirable.

The view about the static hero is that they start unflawed and don’t change, grow, or learn.

I think the static hero one is easier to analyze, so I’ll do that first.

A static hero means any growth and change has already happened; there’s nothing left for them to learn.
This contradicts personal growth and change because, if they were born and grew into the hero, personal growth and change is required. (Also, then the story can be about how they grew into it, or about particular moments of growth, which contradicts a static hero.)

It contradicts Popper because a static hero (in a good philosophical novel) would imply that there is no valid criticism (including their own) of their ideas/actions, and that the hero and their ideas is an authority on something. It’s also anti-Popperian because the reader can’t understand the static hero by conjecture and refutation, or at least the reader can’t follow in the heroes footsteps. The reader is fallible but the hero is not, so the reader needs different methods than the hero used – to learn whatever ideas of the hero make them heroic.

It contradicts BoI because the static hero is literally the end of finality: they are done in some abstract, pure sense. But that isn’t how BoI works – it’s backwards. Static characters are villainous towards the idea of BoI. Like static memes, they reject that improvement is possible and try to suppress it.

WRT BoI, we should expect that our best characters are at the beginning of infinity, and our worst characters deny that BoI is possible, meaningful, good, etc.

Does this line up with what you meant so far?

I think I’m convinced that the flawed-to-unflawed view is wrong, too, but need to think/write a bit first to know.