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Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is a novel of ideas, a suspense narrative based on Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Those ideas come across, scene by scene, in the film adaptation. In these short, engaging videos, philosopher David Kelley, a script consultant on the movie trilogy, plays excerpts from the films and discusses their philosophical meaning.

Each commentary discusses a key idea as dramatized in the films. By watching them, you will acquire or deepen your mastery of the basic elements of Objectivism.

The commentaries are based on scenes from Parts 12, and 3 of the trilogy. The commentaries are arranged in the order in which the scenes appear in the films, but they can be watched in any order. It is not essential that you have seen the movies—the commentaries explain the context of each scene. But your enjoyment and understanding will certainly be enhanced by watching the films either before or after watching them.

Note: While Parts 1 and 2 (and 3) follow the characters throughout a continuous narrative, the cast changes from one Part to the next.

To learn more about the films, and the novel, visit the Atlas Shrugged section of this site. To learn move about Objectivism, visit “ What is Objectivism?

 

Dagny confronts James

Topic: Rationality and independence
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 1

This scene, in which Dagny Taggart confronts her brother James about the need to upgrade a rail line, illustrates the difference between her rationality and his second-hand thinking. Dagny is focused on facts as she deals with the reality of a train wreck; James is focused on the opinions of other people.

Rearden and his dependents

Topic: Makers vs takers
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 1

Early in Part 1, Hank Rearden has two conversations that illustrate the conflict between makers and takers. Hank made his wealth by creating value in his business. His dependent brother Phillip is a taker, self-righteously asking for charity; as are the politicians and crony capitalists who seize wealth by force. 

Trade as mutual respect

Topic: Trader principle
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 1

Two scenes from Atlas Shrugged Part 1 illustrate Ayn Rand ’s principle that when people engage in voluntary trade, exchanging value for value, they are treating each other not “as masters or slaves, but as independent equals”—the highest form of human respect.   

Rearden metal is not for sale

Topic: Individualism vs. collectivism
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 1

When Hank Rearden rejects a government offer to buy the rights to his new metal, his refusal highlights the profound difference between his (and Ayn Rand’s) view of the economy as a system of production and trade among individuals; and the government’s view of it as a collective enterprise subject to state control. 

Property rights

Topic: Property rights
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 1

When the “Equalization of Opportunity” bill forces Hank Rearden to sell off most of his companies, we see why property rights are essential human rights. Together with rights of contract, they allow everyone, including successful producers like Hank, to make rational, long-range plans. 

Body and soul

Topic: Mind and body
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 1

A series of scenes from Part 1 illustrate Ayn Rand ’s view of the unity of mind and body, the spiritual and the material, both in work and in love. That theme is illustrated by the contrast between the two women in Hank Rearden’s life: Dagny Taggart, his business partner who becomes his lover, and his wife Lillian.

Rigid principles

Topic: Principles vs. pragmatism
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2

In a dramatic scene from Part 2, Hank Rearden tells a pragmatic young bureaucrat, “Try pouring a ton of steel without rigid principles.” His remark expresses Ayn Rand’s profound insight about the role of principles in human life, from science and technology to ethics and politics
 

The root of money

Topic: Wealth and production
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2

In the famous “money speech,” Francisco d’Anconia responds to of the Biblical statement "money is the root of all evil" by explaining the real essence of money. Money is a medium of exchange, the means by which people trade value for value. And it represents the fact that wealth must be created by production. There is a fundamental difference between the producers who create wealth and those in “the aristocracy of pull” who become rich through government favors and subsidies. 

Force and mind are opposites

Topic: Force vs. mind
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2

Premier coal producer Ken Danagger explains to Dagny Taggart why he is quitting his business. The government has imposed onerous regulations on him, and is now threatening to imprison him for an honest business deal with Hank Rearden. By using force to prevent him from acting on his own business judgment, the government has interposed a barrier between mind and his actions. He is leaving to preserve his independent mind. 

The trial of Hank Rearden

Topic: Egoism
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2

When Hank Rearden is put on trial for violating a government regulation imposed on his business, he invokes the principle that individuals are ends in themselves, with the moral right to pursue their own lives and well-being—including the right to run his by business by the judgment of his own mind and to keep the fruits of his labor.  

Atlas should shrug

Topic: The sanction of the victim
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2

In these scenes from Atlas Shrugged Part 2, we see Francisco d'Anconia trying to show first Hank Rearden and then Dagny Taggart, the heroic producers and protagonists in the novel, that their love of their work is supporting their own oppressors. Though Francisco doesn't use the phrase, he is articulating Ayn Rand 's conception of "the sanction of the victim"; and with Rearden, he invokes the image that gave Rand's novel its title.

Who is John Galt?

Topic: Justice
Featuring clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2

Karl Marx’s principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is not a moral ideal, as many people have believed. It is flagrantly unjust, a prescription for chaining the individual to the collective and forcing the sacrifice of all to all. That is the theme of a scene in which Dagny Taggart learns about the origin of the iconic question “Who is John Galt?” when she hears about a motor factory that tried to implement Marx’s slogan. 

Reason and Emotion in Atlas Shrugged 

Atlas Shrugged promotes a philosophy of reason, embodied in the strike of the men of the mind. That doesn’t mean suppressing emotions; it means knowing how thought and feeling, head and heart, work together in a good life.

Political vs. Economic Power in Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged highlights the difference between the economic power to offer benefits in trade and the political power to control and oppress

Dagny Taggart's Love in Atlas Shrugged 

Atlas Shrugged is more than a political thriller. It’s a love story. What is love? Is it selfish or selfless?



                                                             
 
ASK THE EXPERTS

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SELF-STUDY: INTRODUCTION TO RAND'S IDEAS
Recommended reading with study questions.


ABOUT ATLAS UNIVERSITY:
Atlas University offers courses on Objectivism , the philosophy Ayn Rand founded, presented by scholars who are experts in the philosophy. Atlas University is a project of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism in life and thought.

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