Atlas Shrugged Movie Explained Part 1 Atlas Shrugged Characters Dagny Taggart and James Taggart.flv
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Uploaded on Nov 4, 2011
http://www.atlassociety.org Atlas Shrugged Characters Dagny Taggart At Odds With James Taggart
Hello, I'm David Kelley, Executive director of The ATLAS SOCIETY and consultant to the ATLAS SHRUGGED movie.
The scene we are going to watch, adapted from Chapter 1 in the novel, is a confrontation among three people: James Taggart, president of Taggart Transcontinental, the largest rail line in the United States, created generations ago by Nat Taggart.
There has been a crash on the Rio Norte Line, a 300 mile spur line serving Colorado, one of the few areas in the country that are flourishing economically.
James's Taggart sister Dagny Taggart is VP of Operations. She needs to deal with the crash by rebuilding the Rio Norte Line, which has not been upgraded for a long time. Her assistant Eddie Willers first confronts James Taggart with the necessity of doing something. Then Dagny Taggart arrives and the conflict moves into high gear.
[Play scene: Start at beginning, end with Dagny Taggart "Just know that this is the consequence of your policies..."
This scene presents a dramatic contrast between two different mindsets, two ways of functioning in the world.
What is Eddie's Willers concern? His concern is the crash—it happened, it's a fact, and it has to be dealt with. Eddie is a highly placed and competent assistant to Dagny Taggart. He understands the importance of fixing the Rio Norte Line. It is the life-blood of the company.
What is James's Taggart concern? His concern is not the actual problem the railroad faces, but his status in the company. He tries to dress down Eddie as a subordinate. What about the crash? What about the need to replace the crumbling tracks of the Rio Norte Line? At best, these seem to be secondary considerations for him.
When Dagny Taggart arrives, she has not only grasped the problem. She has a solution: to rebuild the Line with the new alloy Rearden Metal.
Now the fundamental conflict is broadened. James's Taggart concern is not just power relationships within the company, but what he sees as the danger to the company's reputation if it uses a new and controversial technology.
He whines that the "experts" are skeptical and asks whose opinion she is going by. Dagny Taggart says, "My own.... I studied engineering in college. When I see things I see them."
Here we come to the core theme and issue in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand said that the theme of her novel is the role of the mind in human existence. The basic conflict is between the men (and women) of the mind, and those who rely on some other means of deciding what is true, and deciding what to do.
As a woman of the mind, Dagny Taggart is focused on reality. She has looked at the tests of Rearden Metal and its value as a way to make better rails at lower costs.
As someone whose primary concern is relationships—not only within the company, as in his threat to Eddie—but with the public in general, James Taggart does not seem to care whether Rearden Metal is actually good or not. His concern is whether he will get heat in public for being the first to use it.
In Ayn Rand's view—and in the philosophy of Objectivism that she founded—rationality is the cardinal virtue. Rationality means a focus on reality, a concern for facts and truth. It means that we need to rely on our own independent thought, not on the judgment of others.
Of course we all learn from what others have discovered and taught us. We all consult experts for advice.
Dagny Taggart does that when she relies on the engineering principles she has learned in school. But she didn't just memorize what the teachers said. She learned why the principles are true.
She relies on the tests of Rearden Metal. She did not conduct the tests herself, but she has satisfied herself that they are valid.
But Jim Taggart is worried about an amorphous attitude called "public opinion," not because he thinks it is true, but because he doesn't want to have to think for himself.
Steering your belief by the opinions of others really doesn't make sense. How did those others form their opinions?
The only way to be rational is to take responsibility for thinking, and for acting on the basis of your own judgment.
That point comes through loud and clear as the scene ends.
James Taggart says "I'm not taking responsibility for any of this."
And Dagny Taggart answers: "You won't have to. I will."
For more information and discussion about the Objectivist view of rationality, visit The Atlas Society website. http:www.atlassociety.org
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