Atlas Shrugged: Cherchez la Femme

Atlas Shrugged, part II, chapter III

After the disastrous ending of Jim Taggart’s wedding party, Hank drops Lillian off at the train station, telling her he has to stay in New York for some more business appointments the next day. Then he goes straight to Dagny’s apartment for that hot capitalist lovin’ he missed out on earlier. Later, their pillow talk wanders to the subject of Hank’s wife:

“Dagny, what do you think of my marriage?”

“I have no right to think of it.”

“You must have wondered about it.”

“I did… before I came to Ellis Wyatt’s house. Not since.”

“You’ve never asked me a question about it.”

“And won’t.”

He was silent for a moment, then said, looking straight at her, underscoring his first rejection of the privacy she had always granted him, “There’s one thing I want you to know: I have not touched her since… Ellis Wyatt’s house.”

This reads as if it’s Dagny, not Lillian, whose mind Hank wants to set at ease. (It’s so considerate of him to reassure his mistress that he isn’t having sex with his wife.) But while Dagny didn’t ask or care if Hank was still sleeping with his wife, Hank is still demanding a comprehensive catalog of her past lovers. There’s an unusual scene where she rightfully calls him out on his misogynistic double standard:

He bent his face down to hers and she heard the question that had come again and again in the nights of the year behind them, always torn out of him involuntarily, always as a sudden break that betrayed his constant, secret torture: “Who was your first man?”

She strained back, trying to draw away from him, but he held her.

“No, Hank,” she said, her face hard.

The brief, taut movement of his lips was a smile. “I know that you won’t answer it, but I won’t stop asking – because that is what I’ll never accept.”

“Ask yourself why you won’t accept it.”

He answered, his hand moving slowly from her breasts to her knees, as if stressing his ownership and hating it, “Because… the things you’ve permitted me to do… I didn’t think you could, not ever, not even for me… but to find that you did, and more: that you had permitted another man, had wanted him to, had—”

“Do you understand what you’re saying? That you’ve never accepted my wanting you, either – you’ve never accepted that I should want you, just as I should have wanted him, once.”

He said, his voice low, “That’s true.”

The next morning, Hank returns to his rooms at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, overhearing a radio broadcast about the crash of d’Anconia Copper. He wants to change his clothes and get back to work as soon as he can, but when he opens the door of his suite, there’s an unpleasant surprise waiting for him.

They hit his consciousness together: the breakfast table – the door to his bedroom, open upon the sight of a bed that had been slept in – and Lillian’s voice saying, “Good morning, Henry.”

…As he stood still, she took the time to cross her legs and settle down more comfortably, then asked, “Aren’t you going to say anything, Henry?”

He stood like a man in military uniform at some official proceedings where emotions could not be permitted to exist. “It is for you to speak.”

Unusually for Atlas Shrugged, this is one instance where a villain outsmarts one of the heroes. As Lillian points out, Hank’s being-good-at-everything superpowers seem to have deserted him here. He was scarcely making an effort to hide that he was having an affair; it was easy for Lillian to double back, return to his hotel room and find out that he stayed somewhere else last night. I suppose you could argue that he’s such an unimpeachably honest Randian hero that he’s not used to deception, but shouldn’t such a successful businessman be better at planning for every contingency?

She chuckled, stretching, rubbing her shoulder blades against the chair’s back. “Didn’t you expect to be caught, sooner or later?” she asked. “If a man like you stays pure as a monk for over a year, didn’t you think that I might begin to suspect the reason? It’s funny, though, that that famous brain of yours didn’t prevent you from getting caught as simply as this.” She waved at the room, at the breakfast table. “I felt certain that you weren’t going to return here, last night. And it wasn’t difficult or expensive at all to find out from a hotel employee, this morning, that you haven’t spent a night in these rooms in the past year.”

Lillian demands to know who he’s sleeping with, but Hank refuses to tell her. He also says he has no intention of giving it up. Other than that, he says, he’ll agree to any demand she makes.

“Do you wish to divorce me?”

“Oh, wouldn’t you like that! Wouldn’t that be a smart trade to pull! Don’t you suppose I know that you’ve wanted to divorce me since the first month of our marriage?… No, I’m not going to divorce you. Do you suppose that I will allow your romance with a floozie to deprive me of my home, my name, my social position? I shall preserve such pieces of my life as I can, whatever does not rest on so shoddy a foundation as your fidelity. Make no mistake about it: I shall never give you a divorce. Whether you like it or not, you’re married and you’ll stay married.”

“I will, if that is what you wish.”

Lillian gloats that while the rest of the world still thinks of him as a spotless hero, she knows he’s a liar and a hypocrite, and that now he has no choice but to take her contempt. “I want you to look at me whenever you hear of some act of depravity, or feel anger at human corruption, or feel contempt for someone’s knavery, or are the victim of a new governmental extortion – to look and to know that you’re no better, that you’re superior to no one, that there’s nothing you have the right to condemn.”

In Rand’s moral system, this is proof of Lillian’s utter depravity: that she’s using Hank’s own virtue as a weapon against him, trying to shame him into surrendering his freedom without a fight. Except, she has a point! Hank did break the promise he made to her; he is a liar and a hypocrite. He’s been avoiding her for months, depriving her of affection, becoming physically violent when she tries to touch him, and oh yeah, he cheated on her repeatedly and lied to her about it.

Even if Lillian is an villainous moocher, doesn’t she have every right to be angry at him for this? Isn’t it perfectly normal and understandable that she’d want him to suffer a bit, especially since he’s not remotely apologetic or remorseful about it? But these ordinary human emotional reactions, in Rand’s eyes, are the proof that Lillian is pure evil. Presumably, the proper Objectivist reaction to finding out you’ve been cheated on is to sit there silently, smoke a cigarette and then, I don’t know, go out and stroke a gold bar in the sight of a poor person.

You’re the only one who understands me.

And now, the kicker. If you thought Hank Rearden was already as despicable as a human being gets, prepare to find a new bottom:

When she stopped speaking, he asked, “Have you finished?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Then you had better take the train home now.”

When he undertook the motions necessary to remove his evening clothes, he discovered that his muscles felt as if he were at the end of a long day of physical labor. His starched shirt was limp with sweat.

There was neither thought nor feeling left in him, nothing but a sense that merged the remnants of both, the sense of congratulation upon the greatest victory he had ever demanded of himself: that Lillian had walked out of the hotel suite alive.

Yes, you read that right. Hank was giving serious consideration to murdering his wife, because she caught him cheating on her. What was it that stopped him? It certainly doesn’t seem as if it was a moral objection to killing. Was it the practical difficulty of disposing of her body? The knowledge that defending himself in a murder trial would have meant less time to pour steel?

Let me remind you that Hank, a violently jealous misogynist with murderous impulses and no concern for consent, is one of Ayn Rand’s heroes. The only lesson he has to learn, over the course of the novel, is that he cares too much about other people’s opinions; that he lets his sense of obligation to others hold him back too often. The world would be a perfect utopia, we’re told and expected to believe, if only wealthy sociopaths felt absolutely free to do what they wanted without caring about the sanction of others. If Hank had learned that lesson by this point, would this scene have ended with him killing his wife? And would we have been expected to admire him for it?

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Sneezeguard

    It’s really shocking that Hank just rolls with the ‘We won’t get divorced then’ thing. I mean he doesn’t really have anything to gain by staying married to Lillian at this point and he’s supposed to be super great at everything so you’d think he could lawyer his way out of the marriage.

  • busterggi

    I am now convinced that most comic book super villains are Randians.

  • Gideon

    Maybe I’m jaded, but the outcome of “altering the deal” of the marriage seems like a fruitful negotiation for all involved. Hank no longer needs to expend effort on concealing his affair, and Lillian retains her socioeconomic benefits from the marriage. She fully realizes that the marriage has never served her romantic needs and never will.

    And isn’t this non-monogamous setup well-known in the pragmatic marriages of “powerful” people? The marriage is for prestige and PR, but that doesn’t imply that each of them forbid each other from having other flings on the side…

  • arensb

    Yeah, I thought so as well. But maybe his moral code won’t let him weasel out of things that way; maybe he feels that he can’t honestly get divorced without Lillian’s consent.
    Or maybe it’s a product of the time the book was written: AIUI divorce was a measure of last resort, and something shameful.

  • ZMiles

    Ah, but this is Rand-world, so of course Lillian deliberately set out to drive Rearden into an affair in order to destroy his self-esteem. That’s why she’s so happy about discovering that he’s sleeping around here, gleefully taunting him that she’ll never divorce him and that she knows he’s a hypocrite. It’s also why, when she later discovers that he’s sleeping with Dagny and that his affair is ‘an achievement’ rather than ‘a degredation’, as it would have presumably been had he chosen someone else, she’s horrified.

    We’ll learn more about this in chapter 4 of part 2, when Hank talks to Francisco about the proper Theory of Sex, and Francisco goes on about how men who spend their time chasing beautiful women (instead of ‘women of achievement’ like Dagny) are really losers who are trying to fake out reality, and at heart they know it. Lillian is trying to induce this state in Hank because she’s a villain and so wants to destroy the Good and Pure Hank Rearden, because… well, because she’s EVIL.

  • ZMiles

    Rearden (at this point) doesn’t think he has the right to initiate divorce proceedings because he gave her his word that he would stay with her forever when he got married, and he believes that it’s wrong to break any kind of promise or contract. And he doesn’t try to make her initiate divorce proceedigns (by appealing to her judgement or something) because he ‘doesn’t ask for sacrifices,’ and won’t deny her whatever comfort she gets from their marriage.

    Of course, he’ll learn to get over this and that contracts made with looters are the kind that can be safely broken in Rand’s philosophy.

  • DavidMHart

    I have altered the marriage. Pray I do not alter it further.

  • raylampert

    Perhaps. It’s bizarre that they view divorce as shameful, but not adultery. Or maybe that’s just Rand. After all, in a divorce you’re not breaking your vows; you’re getting released from them.

  • John

    Atlas Shrugged: where violating the terms of a social contract is perfectly acceptable, but ending it is not.

  • Doug Langley

    I’m trying to remember. Didn’t Barbara Brandon reveal that Lillian was modeled after Rand’s mother? It would certainly explain a lot. Lillian’s only dramatic purpose would be to persecute Reardon as much as possible. Reardon’s dramatic purpose would be to depict the persecuted businessman. So Hank has to be dumped on constantly and we’re supposed to feel sympathy. He can’t divorce Lillian because we have to keep feeling sorry for him.

    The scenes between Lillian and Hank do look a lot like confrontations between a mother and child, with Lillian domineering and Hank quaking, unable to respond.

  • eyelessgame

    Well, of course. Textbook supervillain creation: start with an ordinary human, add superpowers, and remove empathy. Same way Rand makes her heroes.

  • Jeff

    Devil’s advocate moment: maybe Hank would have been justified in killing her because she broke into his hotel room?

    It’s a stretch, I know, but this is the only explanation I can think of.

  • GCT


  • Tommykey69

    Only if she had a bottle of ice tea and a bag of skittles, oh, and if she wore a hoodie.

  • Shawn

    Yeah, prior to the liberalization of no-fault divorce laws in the 60s/70s, there was not really a good way for an adulterous spouse to move for a divorce, although Hank’s money probably could have found some sort of solution had he really wanted it to. In most jurisdictions, only an “innocent” spouse could move for divorce based on adultery, which meant that if both spouses were cheating that they could never get divorced at all. Of course if the separation was amicable they could just not bring it up in court, and there was also a cottage industry of private detectives who would collude with the couple to “discover” the husband in a hotel with a “mistress”. Say what you will about the downsides of no-fault divorce, at least it’s cut down on perjury.
    The text isn’t really clear on what Lillian should have done instead – should she have recognized that Hank was better than her and stepped aside for a better woman (as we will see Hank himself do later), or simply allowed him to do whatever he wanted within the marriage without questioning him. It would also have been somewhat interesting if Rand had written this situation after her own affair with Nathaniel Branden flamed out – this is one instance where I’d be genuinely curious as to how her own personal experiences affected her writing and beliefs.

  • Azkyroth

    Say what you will about the downsides of no-fault divorce

    Does it have any?

  • duke_of_omnium

    Some people think it’s made divorce too easy, and marriages too impermanent. Mostly religious types, but I’ve seen the argument from a few secularists, as well.

  • Shawn

    Everything people do has some downsides – although in this case I’m hard pressed to think of something that’s worse under no-fault than alternative systems, especially in cases like this with no kids involved. It’s a massive improvement in my mind; perhaps it would have been better to say “among the benefits of no-fault” is reduction of perjury.

  • arensb

    For what it’s worth, a while back the radio show Ask an Atheist had a segment where they’d read a quotation either from the Bible or from Marvel comics, and you had to guess whether it was spoken by Jehovah or Doctor Doom.

  • Azkyroth

    What reason would a secularist have for supposing that making people who don’t want to be married to each other stay married was a good thing?

  • Doug Langley

    But, but . . . Dagny IS beautiful!

  • eyelessgame

    “Want” is a funny thing. There’s a recognized psychological effect that if an agreement is harder to terminate, people will work harder to make the arrangement succeed. Whether this is a good thing or not with respect to romantic life partnerships or not is a valid question, of course, but there’s some amount of argument that when the parties are responsible for the upbringing of a minor, there might be reasons for *some* force to encourage them to stay together, if for no other reason than to help them distinguish momentary whim from committed decision.

  • Martin Penwald

    Is there a convincing explanation why Hank married Lilian in the first place ?
    Like a lot of idiotic situations in this book, its purpose is to conveniently show the superiority of the randian übermensch and the despicability of the moochers, but still, how a superman like Hank could have accepted this stupid contract ?

  • Scopi314

    I’m wondering this myself. I assume that if it’s in the text anywhere it would have been mentioned. If all Rearden cares about is sex with people who share his capitalist views, wouldn’t it be easier to get that without being married?

  • Southern Skeptic

    It’s amazing to me that there are so many Christians who love this novel. How can they ignore the immorality of the “heroes” in it? I guess it’s the same way they ignore all the immorality in the Bible.

  • X. Randroid

    Explanation, yes. Convincing … well, you tell me:

    The story we’re told is that Rearden, after a few disappointing sexual encounters, has concluded that sex is evil and degrading. In the glow of the early years of Rearden Steel, he meets Lillian and is attracted by “the conflict between her austerity and her behavior,” as she is “obviously pursuing him but with obvious reluctance.” We’re told that “She seemed to be a woman who deserved a pedestal, and that made him want to drag her down to his bed.” But at the same time, he thinks he would be honoring a woman by granting her the title of his wife and that “Lillian seemed to fit the image he had not known he held, had not known he wished to find; he saw the grace, the pride, the purity; the rest was in himself; he did not know that he was looking at a reflection.”

    She seals the deal by coming (on her own initiative) to visit his mills one day and gazing with suitably rapturous admiration at the spectacle of a heat of steel being poured. That very night, he asks her to marry him.

    It’s some time after the wedding before Rearden realizes that Lillian is not interested in him or his steel mills. Thereafter, he’s baffled by the mystery of why she married him … and remains so until Chapter 6 of Part Three.

    I think Rand’s idea was that Rearden failed to see through Lillian in time because he had not learned the True Theory of Sex (as alluded to below by ZMiles, we’ll get to that). Had he known, he would not have been fooled.

  • BenjCano

    Effective devil’s advocates rarely try to advance the theory that cold-blooded homicide is a reasonable response to breaking and entering. But that’s not even what happened here, since she was let into the room by the hotel staff.

  • X. Randroid

    there’s some amount of argument that when the parties are responsible for the upbringing of a minor, there might be reasons for *some* force to encourage them to stay together, if for no other reason than to help them distinguish momentary whim from committed decision.

    I’m pretty sure the claim that no-fault divorce makes divorce too easy is nothing but religious propaganda. Speaking from experience, getting a divorce (even an amicable divorce under California’s no-fault regime) requires a committed effort over a long period of time—a lot more so than getting married. Given how long, involved, and expensive divorce is, especially where children are involved, I find it very hard to believe couples are divorcing on a whim.

    I’m pretty sure marriage on a whim is a lot more common. So, even if we assume society does need to do more to help couples “distinguish momentary whim from committed decision,” I think we’d do a lot more good to provide that help at the premarital stage.

  • Doug Langley

    I’m constantly reminded of J.R. Ewing from the TV show Dallas. He was deceitful, manipulative, and all around sleazy, yet was the star of the show. He was “the crook you love to hate”. Was it parody? satire?

  • Doug Langley

    According to Barbara, there was a lot more than that. Rand described her mother as strong willed and domineering. She reportedly quarreled frequently with the young girl.

    I grew up with an abusive mother. The scenes between Lillian and Hank keep invoking memories of my mother and me. My mother cooked meals, cleaned house, took me to the doctor, etc. She said she loved me. But there were those moments of impatience, then sharpness, then intimidation, then threats. And the sarcasm – don’t get me started. I see a lot of that in Lillian – she seems so reasonable, so sympathetic, so warm. But suddenly Hank is cut to ribbons and has no idea what happened. I can actually sympathize with him.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    What’s more amusing is when said Christians, at least the prominent political ones (Paul Ryan, cough…) get called out on it, they backtrack because Rand was an atheist.

    “Oh no, what I meant was that I agree with her about her celebration of greed, selfishness, and utter contempt for the masses, up to and including my indifference to their death for lacking my own intellectual and moral superiority. But atheism? No way! I’m not evil or anything! I’m a Catholic!”

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    I agree. No-fault marriage is a huge scourge on society.

    Joking aside, breaking up with a live-in partner is a massive physical and psychological disruption to one’s life, the marriage thing simply adding a layer of legal inconvenience that may or may not be a big deal. Kids, don’t do it unless you’re sure.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    Hank was giving serious consideration to murdering his wife, because she caught him cheating on her.

    I had the same reaction when first reading this. Murderous asshole.

    But, upon giving it the most charitable interpretation that I could, I figured that it may have been that Hank was in a state of rage. A rage so great that he may have lashed out at his wife and killed her had he not been able to repress it, and that his repression of that rage was his “greatest victory”. This makes sense and somewhat absolves him of being a moral monster. Somewhat.

    Of course, this just begs the question of why he’s enraged that wife discovered that he was cheating on her. But, baby steps and all…

  • Delphi Ote

    They haven’t actually read it. Like they haven’t read the bible. That’s their dirty secret.

  • Doug Langley

    Bear in mind Rand wrote The Fountainhead in 1943 and the characters were marrying and divorcing at the drop of a hat. So I doubt social conventions were a problem for her.

  • Doug Langley

    When I say sympathize with Reardon, I don’t mean thinking he’s a great character. I roll my eyes at the ubermenschen silliness. I meant those scenes with his wife struck a chord with me.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    But J.R. was cool. You can’t say that about any of the Rand bad guys.

  • David Andrew Kearney

    When I read Rand for the first time (maybe 15 or 16) I already knew I was gay, so I just handwaved this sex stuff away as non-applicable. Which makes me wonder how common that is; the Christians just skim past the athiesm, the actuaries and bankers don’t notice their conspicuous absence, and so on. Funny, because IIRC, Rand took a strict all or nothing stance regarding her views.

  • Doug Langley

    That’s the strange thing. J.R. was a slimeball, yet was a pop icon. Why aren’t Rand’s characters that much fun?

    On that note, one of my faves was the original Mission:Impossible. The heroes were adorable, yet they were crooks. Meddling spies who broke every law that stood in their way. It was a fantasy almost as wild as Atlas Shrugged, yet they were cooler than Rand’s heroes.

  • Doug Langley

    Trust me, even to a straight person, these scenes are other-worldly.

  • J-D

    In the same way that top business executives carry around copies of the latest blockbuster books of business advice, display them prominently, talk about them, recommend them — but don’t actually read them.

  • J-D

    An editor might have asked ‘If his hand moved slowly “from her breasts to her knees”, did it touch anything in between? Is there a reason not to write “his hand running slowly along her body from her breasts to her knees”?’

  • Alex SL

    I cannot point at the primary literature at the moment but there seems to be good evidence that the quality of marriages is higher with no-fault divorce. Some people may be more prone to abusing their spouses if they know that the spouses do not have the option of walking out.

  • X. Randroid

    “IIRC, Rand took a strict all or nothing stance regarding her views.”

    Yep. She believed her views formed a coherent, integrated, and logically necessary whole, and if you were rational, you’d eventually come to agree with her on everything, right down the line. A big part of her animosity toward the Libertarian Party was because they didn’t care why you were for libertarian policies, as long as you were for them. She thought that defending laissez-faire capitalism for the “wrong” reasons (i.e., any reason not based on her ethics) was worse than not defending it at all.

    But it does seem to be quite common for her readers to just pick the parts they like and ignore the rest.

  • X. Randroid

    It’s all just a case of Writer on Board (warning: link to TV Tropes).

    Rand knew there were ways Rearden could get a divorce any time he wanted. But she isn’t ready to let him do that just yet … for reasons that will become apparent in another four chapters. So she leaves her readers to scratch their heads over why he stays married when it seems so out of character for him.

  • J-D

    Maybe her readers (or most of them) have more sense than she had.

  • eyelessgame

    Agreed – I was devils-advocating here, if it wasn’t clear, making what I think could be their case for making divorce harder.

  • Indigo

    Yup. I don’t want to live with my partner at this point in my life because I’m not yet sure that I can faithfully promise “we will be together until one of us dies”. I’ve already had one relationship that went, “Let’s live together and see how it goes! Oh dear, everything’s gone up in flames, now get out of my house,” and that hurt me as much or more as the death of some loved ones. I’m very, VERY glad I did not marry my ex-partner – marriage wouldn’t have stopped us from separating, but it would have made everything much messier and more horrible.

  • Doug Langley

    I vaguely remember something from the 80s called palimony. If an unmarried couple separated, there was some legal options of splitting up property. Does anyone know about that?

  • Doug Langley

    Murray Rothbard was the big guy of Libertarianism at the time. He and Rand did not get along at all, to put it mildly. If I recall correctly, that’s why Rand called her philosophy Objectivism, to keep from being identified with Rothbard. However, a lot of people call Rand small l libertarian, since her views are so similar.

  • Delphi Ote

    Exactly. Everyone should live their lives by this book I’ve never read.

  • Sue White

    If that was his greatest victory, his other victories must have really sucked.

  • Azkyroth

    ….have you ever spoken to anyone, especially an adult whose parents only stayed together “for the children?”

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    The webcomic Spinnerette (, spoof superheroes, recommended if you enjoy The Tick and similar works) features a pair of literal Randian supervillians. They still come off as more realistic and human than Rand’s actual protagonists.

  • J_Enigma32

    In all fairness, he is a hero in a Rand novel. It’s not like he’s got a lot of work ahead of him to get what he wants or anything.

  • J_Enigma32

    Maybe if your tastes run towards the angled beauties in Picasso’s “Guernica.”

    Come to think of it, there’s more than enough right-angles on the faces of Randian heroes to summon the Hounds of Tindalos.

  • Science Avenger

    Yes, in a rant so moronic it’ll make the “no stolen wealth” line of Francisco’s money speech look like absolute genious. Even when I was an Objectivist, I found Rand’s views on relationships absolutely worthless drivel.

  • Science Avenger

    That whole quote sounds like something a 16-year old would say.

  • raylampert

    The Mission: Impossible crew were cool because they beat the bad guys by outsmarting them, and when they did break the law it was always for a higher good. Naturally they were protected by the conventions of fiction. Real spy agencies aren’t that infallible.

  • raylampert

    I recall attending a lecture by a professor of philosophy where, among other topics, he discussed how philosophy had advanced the field of ethics. He pointed specifically to how Deontological ethics (an action is right or wrong depending on whether it adheres to a rule) had given way to Consequentialist ethics (where an action is right or wrong based on its consequences). I’m certain that Rand was a Deontologist because she seemed utterly unconcerned with the consequences of her worldview.

  • Doug Langley

    I was replying to ZMiles who pointed out Rand’s view that losers “spend their time chasing beautiful women instead of women of achievement”. Problem is, Dagney is both beautiful and a woman of achievement, so what does that make her?

  • Doug Langley

    Exactly. A totally idealized fantasy of how you wish spy agencies worked. And they were totally loyal to each other. If one was in trouble, the others would come to the rescue.

  • Doug Langley

    Rand claimed that following her philosophy would produce the best consequences, but that only seemed to work in her fiction world.

  • Delphi Ote

    “Of course, this just begs the question of why he’s enraged that wife discovered that he was cheating on her.”


  • Enopoletus Harding


  • Cactus_Wren

    It makes her Ayn Sue. A woman who was beautiful but not “a woman of achievement” would be described as having a very different kind of beauty: “Her body was soft, rounded, loose-limbed. Her hair was arranged in an elaborately curled coiffure, studded with gaudy ornaments. Her face had the appearance of beauty, but her eyes were lifeless, her mouth slack … ” You get the idea. A woman without achievement would have the wrong kind of beauty.

  • J-D

    There are still philosophers who argue forcefully for a deontological approach to ethics and who would not accept that consequentialist views represent an advance on deontological ones. Your professor’s view is not an established consensus of the field.

    I suspect what you’d be more likely to get an agreement of philosophers about is that both deontological and consequentialist views have their problems.

  • J-D

    I remember the word ‘palimony’.

    I suspect the relevant law would be different in different jurisdictions.

  • Science Avenger

    It’s worse than that. Rand eradicated consequentialism with solipsism, by defining “good” as “that which was consistent with her philosophy”. I recall once in my Objectvist days saying “If my kind of government results in more slums, then that just means more people deserve that life.”

  • Doug Langley

    It’s a subtle point. There’s a difference between belonging to the Libertarian Party and believing in libertarianism. Rand and her followers recoiled at the accusation of being called “libertarian”. I know they don’t belong to that movement, but believe I’m justified in calling them “libertarian”, as in believing in laissez-faire.

  • Cerebus36

    First of all, I have to admit I never watched “Dallas”. That said, I suspect the reason J.R. Ewing was so well loved and hated is because unlike Hank Reardon, Dagny Taggart and other Ayn Rand heroes is J.R. was better written and more well rounded as a character. “Atlas Shrugged” is filled with so many people that aren’t cardboard stand-ins. They’re more like Kleenexes. As people, they’re that flimsy. I suspect J.R. was more multi-dimensional than any Rand creation.

  • raylampert

    Rand did believe that the world and other people existed outside of herself, but she didn’t believe that any of them actually mattered. At least not in a moral sense. “Other people have thoughts, desires and feelings, but so what?” It’s like the opposite of the Golden Rule. Who would want to be treated in the way that she advocates treating others?

  • Azkyroth

    Formulations of consequentialist ethics have problems, but functional ethical systems are inherently consequentialist, because a consequentialist proscriptive system can be constructed with one or two additional axioms beyond those required to construct a descriptive system of knowledge, whereas a “deontological” system must ultimately be either a foot-shuffling, hemming-and-hawing disguised consequentialism, or adopt an additional axiom for every single rule it posits, up into infinity.

  • TBP100

    My parents stayed together until I went to college for no other reason than not to divorce while I was still living at home. At one level I appreciate what they were trying to do, but I’ve often wished they had done differently They clearly were not making each other happy any more, and right when i was coming into puberty and sexual awareness they pretty much stopped showing any physical affection for each other. I still remember staying a few nights with a friend’s family when my parents were out of town. When the husband came home from work the wife rushed to the door and they kissed, obvious happy to see each other. My parents hadn’t done anything like that in years. And then there were the fights (verbal only, but nasty). I really think I would have been happier and better off if they had divorced 5-6 years sooner.

  • Doug Langley

    I have to confess I never watched Dallas either. But I get the impression that the show worked because it wasn’t pretentious. Nobody told us to watch every word, every gesture because the character was MORAL, dammit. Everyone knew he was a sleazeball, so they just went with it.

  • Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I recall that J.R. could put a veneer of down-home charm over his sleaze. In my imagination, Rand’s protagonists are always, always glaring at their surroundings.

  • J-D

    I’m not trying to settle the dispute here, or to take a position on it, or to review arguments either way. I’m just recording the fact that it is still a dispute among professional philosophers — there’s no established consensus of the field. Regardless of the merits of your stance, it’s not an established consensus position.

  • Phéna Proxima

    I was wondering the same thing, this being the age of the Internet after all. Unless it was some kind of 2G1C thing (2 Capitalists 1 Cup?), I can’t imagine what could be so guilt-making. Given the year Atlas Shrugged was published, my guess is that it’s referring to buttsecks.

  • Doug Langley

    “Ayn Sue”. I am SO stealing that.

  • Cactus_Wren