Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter III: Anti-Greed


Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter III: Anti-Greed

Reflections:

There’s plenty of dross to choose from in this chapter.  You just can’t beat Hank Rearden’s insane reaction to being dumped by Dagny, for starters.  That’s the second man who loves this woman more than anything on earth who accepts the end of their relationship with a smile.  I know that this is because they’re all perfect Objectivist specimens, and therefore would never deign to impose their desires on an unwilling partner, but the on-its-face ridiculousness of it all just shows what a fanciful worldview we’re dealing with.

No need for that bauble, Tin Man. All you need is a copy of “Atlas Shrugged”!

For me, though, the most interesting moment in “Anti-Greed” is a quote that Karl highlighted in his chapter recap:

“He saw defensively belligerent men and tastelessly dressed women – he saw mean, rancorously, suspicious faces that bore the one mark incompatible with a standard bearer of the intellect: the mark of uncertainty.”

Let’s break this down for a minute.  Rand is saying explicitly that uncertainty and intellect are mutually exclusive.  Well, what sort of uncertainty is she talking about?  Given the situation, the looks of uncertainty would be due to the fact that these people are about to find out what “Project X” is.  Since they would have no way of KNOWING what Project X is, then uncertainty seems to be the only reasonable reaction right there.  In fact, a look of “certainty” would suggest that they have a totally unearned confidence in what they’re about to see; not really a hallmark of intelligence.  So, we’ve established that the only look of “uncertainty” that an observer could reasonably read on the faces of the spectators is NOT incompatible with intellect.  Just some more evidence that Rand can’t really write for shit.

Now, since we know that she couldn’t have meant what the scene suggests she meant,  we’re left to guess her real intentions.  Since characters in Rand novels are always having their innermost attributes divined from facial shape and expression, we can deduce that the “uncertainty” on the faces of these schmucks if of a deeper sort.  So, Rand is positing that the fundamental condition for intellect is “certainty.”  Leaving aside the question of whether it’s possible for looter scum to be “certain” of their beliefs (I’d bet Rand would say no, because of their adherence to relativism), we’re left to wonder about Rand’s view of the mind.  This seems to be one more piece of evidence that Rand essentializes intellect.   Her character’s don’t really go through any sort of intellectual journey through the course of the book; their weltenschauung is just as inborn as the set of their heroic cheekbones.  Her heroes don’t struggle with their moral or philosophical view of the world: Dagny and Hank only struggle with what degree of allegiance they own to society.  It makes you wonder why she even bothered to write books in the first place: the only person would would look to a piece of fiction for philosophical insight is a person incapable of really thinking at all.  Unless her books are meant to activate the already-extant philosophical structures in the minds of her readers.  Or, at least, those of her readers with the inherent cognitive capacity to possess such structures.  She’s the Noam Chomsky (linguistics edition) of philosophical thought.

This article marks the first time in human history that a connection has been made between Noam Chomsky and Ayn Rand!  Well, just the generative grammar stuff, but still!

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