~Written by my brother, Joseph~

Atlas Shrugged is a fictional exposition of the author’s personal philosophy, objectivism. Through, what appears to be, Francisco d’Anconia’s wasteful ways, the actual competence and resolve exhibited by Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden’s discovery of self-love’s necessity, and the poetic words of John Galt, Ayn Rand presents a story that is at once entertaining and thought-provoking.

In part 2, we receive a passionate manifesto of money. “So you think that money is the root of all evil?,” Francisco d’Anconia begins, going on to say that money is a “tool of exchange” which cannot exist nor have any value without men who produce and deal by trade, giving value for value. That, if left to the beggars’ tears or the thieves’ violence, money would be worthless. He asserts that it is the effort put forth to earn money that gives it the value necessary to acquire the bread we’ll need to survive tomorrow, that no man can be smaller than his money, it will not serve the mind that cannot match it, and in answer to the notion that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil,’ he says, to love money is to know that it is the creation of the best in you and your reasonable tool of trade for the best of others. After reading this section it is advisable of any thinker to try to remember if ever they’d considered money or the love thereof evil, and to locate the premise on which the sentiment was based. Asking then, “by what standard?”

Near the end, we receive an extensive explanation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, through the words of John Galt. He says, “Values are things which one acts to gain and keep… and the supreme values of life are Reason, Purpose, and Self-esteem.” Values imply and require virtues, which are defined as the actions by which one gains and keeps the values that are the standards of one’s existence. The virtues: Rationality, Independence, Integrity, Honesty, Justice, Productiveness, and Pride are all expounded upon, as are the aforementioned values.

Reason is man’s only tool of knowledge, Purpose, his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve and Self-esteem, his inviolate certainty of his mind’s competence and his body’s being worthy of happiness.

Rationality is recognized that nothing can alter the truth or take precedence over the act of perceiving it, which is thinking, and to concede anything to the irrational is to turn one’s consciousness from the task of perceiving reality to that of faking it. Independence is accepting your responsibility of judgment. “No substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life.” Integrity is to permit no breach between body and mind, action and thought, one’s life and convictions. The man of integrity will not sacrifice his convictions to the wishes of others. Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal, and can have no value. Justice is the rational process of judging every man for what he is and treating him accordingly. Productiveness is the constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose. And Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value.

After some thought, it is my position that Knowledge, the information provided by one’s perception of reality, should be in place of Reason on the list of supreme values, because Reason is a means of acquiring Knowledge which qualifies it as a virtue. The unreal should always be seen as such, but it does have value in relation to the concepts of utility and purpose. “Honesty is the most profound selfish virtue man can practice,” and that means being honest with oneself at all times. To practice honesty with others should be a constant choice for the rational individual whose concern is and should always be “preserving, fulfilling, and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is one’s life.” Every virtue must be practiced to the extent necessary to further success, achieve the purpose, and maintain happiness.

The determination of what is good or bad, right or wrong is dependent upon a standard. “Life,” according to Rand, “is the standard of morality,” which is a code of values accepted by choice. The choice of values necessitates the choice of virtues and to what extent, in order to gain and keep those accepted values. She says that perfection is living up to the standards that further the chosen purpose of one’s existence. To passively accept the standards others impose on us is to become good or bad according to their assumed superiority of judgment, which has no validity other than the sanction of our self-abnegation.

This is what she means when using the word sacrifice. Surrendering something of value for, or to, that which has none. To the extent they act to prevent its end, the most self-destructive among men value life. But we often practice, overlook and perpetuate the sacrifice of our self-esteem by using the opinions of others as the standard by which we judge ourselves. To be pro-sacrifice, whether consciously or not, is to be anti-justice. Self-esteem can only be the cause behind an act or thought, never the effect thereof. While each virtue has an opposite, and sacrifice is that of justice, there is no practical value in sacrifice for the reasonable man. As no tool is more important to a baker than his oven, nothing can replace justice for a thinking man.

Rand’s portrayal of interpersonal relations between men and women borrows a lot of views on the subject that were popular in her era. She marries sex to love and by doing so implies that a standard is sub-par if it doesn’t. Our lives, abilities, and desires must be seen, by us, for what they are: Good? or Bad? – according to what standard?