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    Educational Philosophy: Dr. William Allan KritsonisExample of PhD Comprehensive Exam Item

    Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged: What would you do?

    Introduction

    The theme ofAtlas Shruggedis the role of the mind in human existence. The

    human existence and its progress are dependent upon the independent thinking of those

    who choose to think. Rand (1957) developed a philosophy that holds that man gains

    knowledge only through reason. Rand (1957) subsequently developed this philosophy

    which she called Objectivism throughAtlas Shrugged. She asserted that man must

    pursue his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life. Atlas Shruggedis a depiction

    of American society with socialistic moral values which promote altruism and

    collectivism, and an economy crippled by government regulation, taxation, and laws.

    The great thinkers do not have a moral social system in which business innovators are

    allowed reason, individualism, and market economy. The protagonist, John Galt, leads a

    strike for great thinkers in society to rebel against government policy intent on evenly

    sharing the proceeds of their work throughout society.

    Purpose

    The purpose of this essay is to discuss Rands view of the role of the individual

    mans mind and how too much intervention by the government could underscore society.

    Rand (1964) believes that each man has the moral obligation to fulfill his own happiness.

    The world begins to disintegrate when the government exploits the thinkers through

    overregulation, confiscating profits, and undervaluing the contributions of individual

    thinkers to society. The metaphysics ofAtlas Shruggedis based on Objective Reality and

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    the epistemology is based on reason. Rand believes ontology is as much perception as it

    is reality. The characters axiology is utilized to immerse the reader in the dichotomy

    established by Rand.

    InAtlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents bold ethics of rational selfishness. Ethics

    tell individuals how to survive. Rand (1964) advocated rational self-interest. InAtlas

    Shrugged, Rands characters deal with the conflict between individualism and the welfare

    of society. Rand (1957) displays her disdain for collectivism and altruism in support of

    the virtues of individualism and laissez-faire capitalism. She believes that self-interest is

    the standard of morality and selflessness is immorality.

    Ayn Rands view of productive work is the core of her ethics. She says

    productive work is the central purpose of a rational mans life. InAtlas Shrugged, the

    heroes are all productive individuals. Productivity is the cardinal moral value which is

    unleashed in free-market capitalism. Productive work has an aesthetic foundation in

    Objectivism. InAtlas Shruggedeach character has an aesthetic symbol which

    characterizes him or her. Galts motor and Halleys fifth concerto are aesthetic elements

    that give value to those characters. The thinkers strike against an enforced moral code of

    altruism and collectivism. InAtlas Shruggedthe withdrawal of the great thinkers and

    their productive work cause a collapse of the economy and prove that the rational mind

    plays a great role in the attainment of prosperity and progress in an economy.

    Throughout Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Randmaintains that a prosperous society is

    possible only if individuals have the moral right to pursue their own self-interest, dealing

    with each other by mutual consent, with government restricted to protecting their

    individual rights. Individuals should live for their own happiness and must create the

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    means of their physical survival and spiritual well-being. InAtlas Shrugged, the most

    productive and competent individuals are the individuals of great minds who create

    wealth for themselves and prosperity for the economy. Eventually they refuse to

    participate in an economy that exploits them with overregulation and too much taxation.

    The unproductive people benefit from the work of the productive, incompetent businesses

    profit from thriving businesses and profit is distributed evenly among the population.

    The looters feel no need to grow.

    Rands (1957) principle belief is that individuals of self-esteem will not work as

    slaves. An individual of self-esteem will not feel guilt for their achievements and virtues.

    A rational man must choose proper values in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy

    his life. Self-esteem is the expression and reward of a mind fully committed to reason. A

    commitment to reason is the commitment to the maintenance of full intellectual focus and

    ones understanding and the expansion of knowledge, to the principle that ones actions

    must be consistent with ones convictions. The man of self-esteem has a psychological

    need for constant intellectual growth and productive achievement.

    Rand (1964) believes what is good for man to flourish and advance his life is

    moral. A moral code defines what is good and what is evil. This moral code is asserted

    in regard to persons, actions, conduct, and morality in general. Rand (1964) believes that

    good and evil could be ascertained as black and white. Upon defining what is good and

    what is evil, what is black and what is white; one must choose one or the other. All

    decisions derive from that which allows man to flourish is good, that which harms our

    prospect to live is evil. All decisions derive from one choice, to live or to die. According

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    to Rand (1957), morality insists that selflessness is not morality but slavery. The

    characters inAtlas Shruggedillustrate ideological conflict.

    The importance of the mind is a central theme ofAtlas Shrugged. Rands (1957)

    philosophy supports her view that a mans self is his mind and man is a self-made soul.

    Man should live by his own mind. The strike of the mind led by John Galt is a

    demonstration of the importance of the thinkers to society. The novels mystery is

    heightened by the question, Who is John Galt? John Galt was an intelligent engineer

    who created a new motor. He also discovered the secret to what is wrong with the world.

    The world had become an oppressive bureaucratic system that embraced collectivism,

    altruism, and mediocrity. John Galt removed himself from society. He systematically

    removed other great thinkers and society quickly spiraled downward. The economy

    collapsed. Rands utilizes this strategy to convey her philosophy concerning the

    importance of mans mind in understanding that labor, productive work, is responsible

    for prosperity.

    Concluding Remarks

    In conclusion, Ayn Rands Objectivist philosophy holds that man should

    pursue his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life. A social system based on the

    principle of individual rights, capitalism, allows the economic freedom for great thinkers

    to be productive workers. InAtlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand fictionalized a society that

    portrayed the government controlling large portions of the economy which result in

    corrupt business practice, overregulation, heavy taxation, and antitrust action against

    successful companies, massive social welfare programs, and dishonest politicians. Ayn

    Rand usedAtlas Shruggedto promote the value of mans mind. She surmised that

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    society will be more prosperous as it encourages independence for thinkers, freedom

    from the government, productive work, and individualism.

    References

    Rand, A. (1957). Atlas shrugged. New York: Penguin Putnam, Incorporated.

    Rand, A. (1964). The virtue of selfishness. New York: Penguin Putnam, Incorporated.