Sunday, January 11, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

Amazing book – pure thrill to read (took me a long time to read – a lot of breaks in between , but finally I managed to finish it before the end of 2008 :))

After reading an epic of a book like that, there are many thoughts on that especially to the fundamental philosophy of Ayn Rand “Objectivism” in the book. I have tried to pen down some of my thoughts and it will be highly encouraging to hear from people who have read this book to get their viewpoints – on what points they agreed / disagreed / or simply fascinated you at some angle.

The central theme of the book is about John Galt and his speech and highlighting the quote summarized in the line below:

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

Few other thoughts that made this book very interesting for me:

Capitalism pro

I was surprised and to an extent about this (I don’t think I have read or heard this before) – not from an economic point of view only, but also from a moral systemic point of view – this is based because of its sync with the “reason” being the absolute of man and the ruling principle being justice. “Making money” through many conversations I had, is being looked at “ugly”, “morally wrong” and “selfish”. But the book displays a great angle of the same. In the book, the government is portrayed as comprising of looters and moochers (the term used very frequently throughout the book). They have been portrayed to demand others' earnings because they claim to be needy and unable to earn themselves. Even as they beg for their help, however, they curse the people who make that help possible, because they hate the talented for having the talent they don't possess. But this is under the claim of “doing social responsibility” / “having the heart for the needy” / “public welfare” and this is where the concepts get very interesting to read. The concept of “making money” to being opposite of “social responsibility and public welfare and working on a need that is greater than your own” is ridiculed.

The common man philosophy

A lot of emphasis is made on a man’s mind, his intellect and the characters portrayed as protagonist are man of high intellect. So, after reading naturally a conclusion that could go is – that well, heroism, great things = high intellect, but that’s where I think the character played by Eddie Williers is beautifully depicted as a man of modest intelligence. His character demonstrates the difference between intelligence and rationality. As mentioned in one of the quotes - intelligence is intellectual ability, whereas rationality is a method. Intelligence is a capacity for understanding, but rationality is a means of using one’s mind.

The title “Atlas Shrugged”

The novel's title describing Atlas who is holding the celestial globe on his shoulders, discussing what might happen if those holding up civilization suddenly decided to stop doing so. This is concept of the “men of the mind” going on strike – and this is depicted in one of the conversations by Hank and Francisco where he tells Rearden that if he could suggest to Atlas that he do one thing, it would be to shrug (on how they were exploited).

Last but not the least, the quotes highlighting Ayn Rand’s philosophy

I had written about it when I started in one of my earlier posts

There were many others which give you those “a-ha” moments, also the John Galt’s speech of - I think about 60 pages of pure intellectual & philosophical thrill, but I will mention one of them below:

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine”