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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Educational Philosophy

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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Educational Philosophy

Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Educational Philosophy

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  • 1. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: What would you do? Introduction The theme of Atlas Shrugged is 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” through Atlas Shrugged. She asserted that man must pursue his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life. Atlas Shrugged is 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 Rand’s view of the role of the individual man’s 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 of Atlas Shrugged is based on Objective Reality and the epistemology is based on reason. Rand believes ontology is as much perception as it
  • 2. is reality. The character’s axiology is utilized to immerse the reader in the dichotomy established by Rand. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents bold ethics of rational selfishness. Ethics tell individuals how to survive. Rand (1964) advocated rational self-interest. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s 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 Rand’s view of productive work is the core of her ethics. She says productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life. In Atlas 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”. In Atlas Shrugged each character has an aesthetic symbol which characterizes him or her. Galt’s motor and Halley’s fifth concerto are aesthetic elements that give value to those characters. The thinkers strike against an enforced moral code of altruism and collectivism. In Atlas Shrugged the 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 Rand maintains 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 means of their physical survival and spiritual well-being. In Atlas Shrugged, the most
  • 3. 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. Rand’s (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 one’s understanding and the expansion of knowledge, to the principle that one’s actions must be consistent with one’s 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 to Rand (1957), morality insists that selflessness is not morality but slavery. The characters in Atlas Shrugged illustrate ideological conflict.
  • 4. The importance of the mind is a central theme of Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s (1957) philosophy supports her view that a man’s 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 novel’s 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. Rand’s utilizes this strategy to convey her philosophy concerning the importance of man’s mind in understanding that labor, productive work, is responsible for prosperity. Concluding Remarks In conclusion, Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist” philosophy hold’s 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. In Atlas 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 used Atlas Shrugged to promote the value of man’s mind. She surmised that society will be more prosperous as it encourages independence for thinkers, freedom from the government, productive work, and individualism.
  • 5. References Rand, A. (1957). Atlas shrugged. New York: Penguin Putnam, Incorporated. Rand, A. (1964). The virtue of selfishness. New York: Penguin Putnam, Incorporated.