Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand Part 1

“Who is John Galt?”

For those brave souls who have read, are re-reading, or have just picked up Ayn Rand‘s 1,000+ page book Atlas Shrugged for the first time, welcome to this series of blog posts about this story.

Atlas Shrugged is written in three parts, each part named in honor of Aristotle‘s laws of logic:

Part One:     Non-contradiction
Part Two:     Either-Or
Part Three:   A is A

In Part One, we meet the main characters

  • Dagny Taggart, Francisco D’Anconia, Hank Rearden and other industrialists who use their brains and skills to produce products to make money and who eventually “go on strike”, withholding their knowledge and talent from the world;
  • James Taggart, Hank Rearden’s family, Dr. Stadler, politicians, and other industrialists sympathetic to the government, who look to seize and transfer wealth from those who produce it, to those who don’t produce, but “need” it;
  • Dr. Akston and Ragnar Danneskjold as role players in the discussion of philosophical ideas and ethical choices in the story;
  • Eddie Willers, a supportive character to Dagny Taggart and a weaving thread throughout the story connecting to John Galt;
  • the constant question…. “Who is John Galt?”

The story is set at an unspecified time in the United States although both the social customs and the level of technology are close to the 1950′s, especially when trains ruled both cargo and passenger transportation across the continent.  Television is a novelty, jet planes are new, there are no cell phones, it is mostly a “man’s world”, and everyone lights up a cigarette at every turn.

The tone is set by the title of Part One: Non-contradiction.  Aristotle’s Law of Non-contradiction, in simple English, is his “logical principle that a thing cannot be both A and not-A at the same time in the same respect.  It would be self-contradictory to say, “Your pants are on fire, and, what’s more, your pants are not on fire.” (see p. 196, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein).

Thus the struggle begins. The producers, who are men and women of action and motive, are expected to produce while government groups create new laws and directives that restrict their ability to produce. The producers face Aristotle’s Law of Non-Contradiction – they cannot be both A (able to produce) and non-A (unable to produce) at the same time in the same respect.

Why are there more and more accidents and disasters?  Why is food and general supplies running low?  What are the producers and government groups doing about it?  Who is responsible?

“Who is John Galt?”

Stay tuned for Part Two…..

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