Justin Li


Atlas Shrugged (cont.)

2010-08-06

I had forgotten about these two points last time. Also, Faye has posted her thoughts on Atlas Shrugged.

Post Script 4: Sanction of the Victim

Although, as Faye suggested, that wealth is most often made collectively in the world at large, this is not true for special circumstances. In smaller groups, especially when the groups are not formed through mutual selection, there are often members who do most of the work and members who barely work at all. I am, of course, talking about school projects. If Atlas Shrugged had an effect on me, it is in my wondering whether I should have been more honest in group evaluations.

Post Script 5: On the Value of Human Life

At the end of the novel, the protagonists take over a torture facility to rescue John Galt. In one scene, Dagny confronts a guard by telling him that she was sent there by the head of state and making him choose between letting her in and obeying his boss' order to keep everyone out. When he couldn't make a decision, Dagny shoots him dead.

This scene, and the following ones, never satisfied me. Although I see the literary need to rescue Galt (and have no suggestion on how to otherwise achieve this), killing to achieve this seems entirely antithetical to the novel. Implied in the killing is that there is no life without thought and that being alive or dead makes no difference in that case. While this may be a valid philosophical position, putting it into action violates more than the value of life: our protagonists are also imposing their beliefs on others and making that choice of life and death for them. It is this latter imposure that I cannot stand. My philosophy leans toward what is said of Voltaire (but actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall): "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

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