With the election of a highly controversial man of the people/con-man for President of the United States, and the serious problems this election brought to the forefront, many of my friends have been curious about Ayn Rand and her writing. So, over the next year I am doing a new reading project, reading Atlas Shrugged again, but just a few pages a day, and posting analysis and reflection on this blog. If you want to join in the fun, I’ll be reading the first 10 pages of Atlas Shrugged for January 1st, and will be posting my first blog update for this project then. Grab yourself a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and a notebook to jot down your reactions, and dive in. Read as fast or as slow as you wish, but I’ll stick to 10-15 pages per day for my analysis posts. When we finish this book (my copy is ~1080 pages long, so it will take about 3-4 months at this rate) I’ll pick another book by a different author and keep going.
Many people who have not finished their first reading of Atlas Shrugged are wary of being indoctrinated, and many people do seem a bit giddy after reading this book, if they understood and liked it. In fact, most people I know who have read this novel either became obsessed with it or absolutely detested it. I like Atlas Shrugged as a sort of model that I can map onto real world events for a useful perspective. It is not a Bible, and one must study real world history, science, political science, psychology, economics, etc., to really make solid analysis of the real world using Rand’s philosophy. But Rand’s philosophy is a good, solid framework for building your own more comprehensive understanding of modern society.
I find the notion of people turning to Ayn Rand, or Leonard Peikoff, or any guru Objectivist to tell them what is right and wrong and how to think rather absurd. The whole point of the philosophy Rand wrote was that all of us have the responsibility to think for ourselves and make our own choices, and to accept the consequences of our choices. So, I am not setting myself up as a new guru by blogging my rereading of Atlas Shrugged; I am simply a book blogger blogging a spaced out reading of a long book. I’ll be reading about 10-15 pages a day, and bringing in other sources as needed. If you want to read along, I’ll include the first and last sentence of each segment in case your copy of this book is not the same edition, along with the page numbers in my edition. I’ll probably also keep a list of outside sources and suggested additional reading.
About me- I became an Objectivist in high school, reading Atlas Shrugged first, followed by all of Ayn Rand’s other books and essays, and all of Nathaniel Brandon’s books, and all the biographies about Rand that existed at that time. I reread Atlas Shrugged probably ten times since then. In high school I was interested in how real-world history compared to the world of Atlas Shrugged, so I read lots of history as well about the real people and events that clearly inspired bits of Rand’s novel. For my 3rd college degree I studied political and economic theory and public policy and administration, and worked as a teaching assistant for several different political science courses, so those years of intensive study will add a layer of my own perspective to this upcoming rereading of Atlas Shrugged.
Part of the challenge of reading Rand is always to see and appreciate the timeless philosophy without getting caught up in the timely and dated bits. I do consider myself an Objectivist, but I do not blindly accept any of Rand’s conclusions about anything, and I find that where Rand ventured into subjects she had not thoroughly studied, especially social sciences, she lacked factual knowledge. Just as one cannot use pure reason about why the world is flat to prove that it is, one cannot use pure reason to prove that one piece of art is better than another, or to develop accurate models for neuroscience or gender psychology. I do not expect a philosopher who was writing during the era when DNA was just being discovered to be psychic, and to know all the science information our species has developed since the 1950’s, when Atlas Shrugged was published.