Next steps with Atlas Shrugged

I can combine a version of this with reading LO: basically to read through and write notes or little essays as I go. Since LO exists and is already an organized source, it seems low-risk to read through it somewhat casually. If I get to the end of that and feel like it wasn’t as helpful as just writing about the stuff I first wanted to, then I can discuss that and try a post on something more specific (mb while also re-reading sections of AS). This gets me unstuck, at least.

Also, there was another option for a next step that I’d already tried a bit and rejected: I searched YT earlier today for “atlas shrugged” and clicked through a few videos. I didn’t think they were very good, though.

Okay, I think I have my next steps:

  • Read LO – discuss anything I disagree w/ or don’t understand
    • Optionally write some summaries of topics/themes, or thoughts about a situation as I go through LO
    • If LO makes complete sense and I think I already understand everything, then post about that – mb I’m making a mistake
  • Afterwards I can ask for other suggestions, or if I’ve found other material along the way I could read that.
    • Mb a bigger project thread

I think I’m going to leave this thread open until I’ve read LO and have a better idea of how these first steps have gone (or are going). Completing the project now feels premature b/c I can’t evaluate whether these next steps worked.

Partial evaluation of steps:

  • LO has questions throughout – i’ve started taking notes or writing little responses. I don’t think I’ll answer all the Qs but will answer some that seem more important, and maybe come back to others later.
sample of notes

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.

I haven’t read LO yet but I plan to. A big downside I could imagine to using that as your primary resource would be that it’s a deep dive on the first three chapters of AS, which is like 5% of the book, and so even if you understood those chapters perfectly well, I imagine that there would be a lot more about Objectivism to learn. However, if your idea is that first you’d use LO to develop your skill of closely reading things, and then you’d follow that up by doing a close reading of the rest of AS on your own, that sounds reasonable to me.

Here are some suggestions for other ways you could proceed w/ learning more about the ideas in AS that haven’t yet been mentioned in this thread:

  • I don’t know if you’ve read The Fountainhead yet, but that definitely helps to understand AS.

  • Ayn Rand’s nonfiction is excellent, and definitely clarifies the ideas in AS. ET’s recommendations for AR essays on the FI books list seem to me like a reasonable place to start.

  • I also like OPAR and Understanding Objectivism, which are a bit more systematic than Rand’s nonfiction, though they are harder to read. They are also just not as good (in some way that I’m not sure how to articulate).

  • There are a ton of different Objectivism-related shows/podcasts that you can find at Ayn Rand Centre UK’s YouTube channel. Most are pretty light-hearted and easy to absorb, so you can listen to them while relaxing. Also check out this and this and this. There’s even more Objectivism-related media, but I don’t want to spam you with links. Most of this stuff is not a substitute for focused learning, but it’s good for getting better acquainted with the ideas.

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How is this a downside?

The first 3 chapters are not inconsistent with the other 27; and eventually, should I not seek to understand them all? If I’m not cutting off ways to learn the other 27 chapters, then is there really any risk?

I read it three years ago I think – around the holiday period of 2018.

I agree – I’ve read Philosophy: Who Needs It and some of the Virtue of Selfishness, and some miscellaneous stuff. Here’s an example of a post from when I was reading PWNI:

I’ll check out some of those links, but FYI I’m not so fond of ARI – the little I’ve experienced hasn’t been great (example:

(Note: this bit isn’t addressed to @lmf – it’s more a general commentary)

Watching the video in the linked post just now – it feels like a facade and betrayal of AR.

Example: How to Fill Your Life with Meaning (Dave Rubin Interview with Yaron Brook and Gena Gorlin) - YouTube

(quote via YT transcript)

it it also lets you connect with people in another way because if you if you surround yourself with great art and then someone walks into your home and acknowledges it absolutely you actually feel a connection with them

How is that not secondhandedness? It’s not someone’s appreciation of your choice of art that should ever matter – it’s someone else’s unguarded appreciation of some art, and expression of those aspects to you, that should matter; if they do that and you’ve happened to have chosen it for the same reasons, then there might be a connection.

Same, but they are not a monolith. Even the bad ones like HB are really good about some things. Also, even when ARI people are wrong or bad, they usually aren’t that bad—especially compared to some of the other things someone might be watching in their free time (like Dave Rubin).

I didn’t watch the video so maybe I’m misunderstanding something about the context, but from the quote alone it’s not obvious to me that this is second handedness. Like, what you think of as great art is a reflection of your values, and so if someone walks into your home and also thinks your art is great then you should feel a connection with them: They share your values.

A key part of my judgement is when I say “as your primary resource.” I’m not saying don’t read it or that it’s bad or anything like that. I just mean that like, if e.g. I wanted to understand what AR means when she says logic is the art of noncontradictory identification, it’s definitely in a place like OPAR or ITOE but I’m somewhat skeptical that it can really be found in a detailed reading of the first 50 pages of AS.

I just watched the 80 second clip from Gena that you blog about here, and I agree with her. I don’t think that what she said contradicts Rand in either of the two ways you describe. I don’t actually want to discuss this (not right now at least), but I thought I’d state my belief just so you know.

When you think HB or another ARI-aligned intellectual creates “really good” material, that is an opportunity. You could share it so others could enjoy it. If you shared your opinion along with the link, it would let other people agree or disagree with your opinion, and potentially share criticism.

Also, saying at least something bad is better than [bad thing people might spend their time on instead] is a problematic attitude.

I don’t agree, because I have in mind a context where the only alternatives are bad or worse. Less bad stuff is better than more bad stuff.

I have in mind a context of like, you’re relaxing and eating dinner or something, and you want to watch some quasi-intellectual entertainment.

There are many alternatives that are better and also popular. There are so many options that it’s hard to know where to begin or what’s going on with your perspective. Many books, in many genres, are better than Dave Rubin, and are not bad, while also being light/easy to listen to. Three more examples, from YouTube, are Veritasium, history explainer videos, or speedrun explanations. There’s no need for politics or bad philosophy.

Also, @Elliot has a couple hundred hours of video and audio content, which you could watch in a relaxed way rather than not watching it at all or saving it for indefinitely later. Or you could reread Rand’s novels and pay half attention or however much attention you have available. Light/easy/lossy passes on good material tend to be better than thorough passes on bad material.

I basically disagree with this if you mean alternatives to the mediocre Objectivism content. I think there are a lot of things of similar quality and not a lot of things that are better (consequently, I do think there’s a lot of stuff that’s better than Dave Rubin). I think maybe we have different perceptions of the number of errors being made by the media in question (or maybe we have in mind different material; I linked a lot of stuff to Max and it is of variable quality).

Personally, I tend to find that light passes on good material are more boring than thorough passes on bad material, but maybe I’m weird like that.

I’m satisfied that my next steps will work. I’m planning on concluding this project later today.

I’ll do a proper postmortem / review then, but there are more than a few issues that I ran into. I think this project succeeded, but only because there was so much excess capacity.

Why no reply? @lmf

I didn’t think anon expected a reply. I’ll reply now, though.

The main reason is probably that I don’t know where I’d share it. Do you think it would be acceptable if I were to make an “lmf shares links” thread or something?

Another reason is that because of this post, I’m a bit afraid of posting some of the stuff that I have in mind because it might be off-topic. E.g. one of the ARI-aligned intellectuals I like the most has some interesting takes on things, but he doesn’t get very deep into explicitly philosophical topics.

Lastly, sometimes when I think an ARI-aligned intellectual creates “really good” material, the meat of the content they created is just an idea that came directly from something Rand wrote, so I imagine that some of the people on this forum would find it uninteresting / redundant.

You can make one topic for each thing. If you think that’s too many small topics, you can group them by theme, e.g. a topic for small physics things or small Objectivism things. Fairly specific themes are best so they don’t overlap too much with other topics or become giant megathreads (in other words, try not to group dozens of things together that aren’t directly related). IMO you shouldn’t worry about clutter unless it becomes a problem, rather than based on predictions that may be inaccurate. If you make a dozen threads and see what happens, you’ll have a better idea of what to do about it at that point. Clutter is not a big deal anyway (and it’s also not hard to merge threads).

If someone can explain Rand without screwing it up, that would be interesting and notable. I have been unable to find any decent, active Objectivist authors/speakers to follow online.

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I assume that you mean consistently explain Rand without screwing up, rather than just occasionally explain Rand without screwing up.

I’m somewhat surprised that it’s this bad, though I guess I shouldn’t be because I have a lot to learn wrt Objectivism. I am currently only able to spot a few errors that these people make (barring specific areas like when they talk about epistemological induction or math or physics).

Just trying to get a gauge on how bad you think they are:

ARI has a lot of articles which are explicitly devoted to explaining something like a single idea of Rand’s. If you picked a random one of those, what would be the chances that the article screwed Rand’s idea up?

For example?

project conclusion

The project was a success insofar as I had a plan w/ how to proceed with AS that was clear and easy to follow (whether those steps went well is a different topic). I know it was a success because I was able to move on without revisiting this thread and because LO has plenty to read, covers many elements of the book, and has many good writing prompts (both explicit and implicit).

There are a few things that didn’t go well.

  • I didn’t break up brainstorming and eliminating options as well as I could have, and I added more ideas after the initial brainstorming step. That often isn’t a problem in abstract, but I could have spent more time brainstorming and probably would have avoided needing to add more ideas later. (This would be important for a more complex project)
  • I also didn’t end up with more than 1 specific goal WRT next steps, but thought I would when I wrote the OP.
  • I also could have done more research earlier on, but I’m not sure this would have changed the outcome.

The process I went through felt smooth. In part it felt smooth/easy b/c I’d laid out a brief plan as part of the template, so it was obvious what the next steps were. I didn’t get stuck. Elliot’s suggestion helped a lot.