A Contradiction I Found in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”

John Galt says to Dagny Taggart, “Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever.”

So what does it mean that Rand uses a fictional character to express her philosophy (Galt’s epic and exhausting speech) as well as a fictional narrative depicting a fictional reality in order to illustrate it?

Either we are not meant to take the ideas at the center of this novel seriously, seeing them instead as a parody on par with her caricature of job-killing liberal democracy, or we are meant to take them seriously and, as it turns out, certain truths can only be spoken by faking reality.

While I am perfectly comfortable with this notion, it is anathema to “objectivism.” The world of A=A is for all intents and purposes devoid of irony.

Irony requires a subject as well as an object, and the process of speaking ironically and understanding, or not, something ironically spoken, can best—not to say “only”— be understood dialectically.

Having rejected the dialectic, however, Rand forces us to take her work at face value (like a coin of pure gold).

And thus effaces it.

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4 Responses to A Contradiction I Found in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”

  1. Vanessa says:

    Rand was fully aware that she was creating romantic art and not constructing a reality. You seem to be the one unable to understand the difference between an illustration and objective reality.

  2. admin says:

    And you seem to have misunderstood my post.

    The contradiction I find in her work is not between the work as such and reality, but between her objectivist claim that A=A and her artistic/philosophical practice that wants to speak truth through the veil of fiction.

  3. Lisa says:

    Writing fiction does not constitute “faking reality”. Writing fiction and claiming it to be non-fiction would faking reality. Faking reality, in Rand’s terms, means denying reality and replacing it in your own mind with a non-reality that feels better to you.

    I’m not saying you’ll never find contradictions in her work. This isn’t one.

  4. admin says:

    When you try to make claims about how reality works, as in the long “money is the root of all evil” speech or Galt’s extended monologue, but these claims are made within a fictional work, the fictional context contradicts the claim to moral truth. That is, while you certainly can build a coherent moral philosophy based on an artificially constructed reality, you can’t than apply that philosophy as it is to reality as it is.

    The other point I was trying to make was that the objectivist credo—A=A—is a little strange to find in a work of fiction where, strictly speaking, A≠A.

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