Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

Preview of Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 9

25 January 2010

Do you want to better understand and appreciate Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged? Look no further! Explore Atlas Shrugged will help you gain fresh insights into the complex events, characters, and ideas of this epic novel – whether you've read it just once or a dozen times before.

The podcast and study questions below are a preview of Session 9. You can purchase access to the whole of Explore Atlas Shrugged – meaning, over 22 hours of podcasts, 1400 study questions, and other resources – for just $20 using the form below. The written materials in the course are also available from Amazon in paperback and kindle formats, and purchasers of those editions just pay $10 for access to the podcasts.

For more information, including previews of other sessions, visit Explore Atlas Shrugged.

The Reading

Session 9 of Explore Atlas Shrugged covers:

  • Part 2: Chapter 5: Account Overdrawn
  • Part 2: Chapter 6: Miracle Metal

Preview the Podcast

Listen to the podcast preview of Session 9 of Explore Atlas Shrugged now – or download it:

  • Preview Duration: 21:46 (Full Podcast: 1:21:14)
  • Download Preview: Standard MP3 File (7.5 MB)

Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

Preview the Study Questions

The page numbers found in parentheses in these questions refer to the hardcover, softcover, and kindle editions of Atlas Shrugged, not the small mass market paperback. Due to this pagination difference, I don't recommend using the mass market paperback.

Part 2: Chapter 5: Account Overdrawn

Section 1 (496-517)

As the world sinks deeper into crisis, Dagny Taggart attends the board meeting of Taggart Transcontinental. There, the board decides to dismantle the John Galt Line, albeit under terms dictated by government representative Clem Weatherby. Afterwards, Francisco d'Anconia meets Dagny to help her through that evening.

Core Questions

  • What is the state of the world by February 15th, when the rail of Rearden Steel was due to Taggart Transcontinental? What caused that? How do the leaders in industry and politics respond – and why? (496-501)
  • What is the nature of the financial crisis facing Taggart Transcontinental? What does Jim Taggart propose to do about it at the board meeting? How and why does Mr. Weatherby object? What is the final result? (502-6, 509-11)
  • Why does Dagny refuse to express any opinions about what Taggart Transcontinental should do about its branch lines? What does the board want from her – and why? (506-9)
  • What is the basic story of Nat Taggart's battle to build the railroad? What lesson does Francisco want Dagny to draw from that story? Does she draw that lesson? How so or not – and why? (513-5)

Extra Questions

  • How are people at the mercy of the forces of nature now more than ever before? Why? (496-501)
  • How do failures in one business affect other businesses? Why is the economy so fragile now? (496-8)
  • What is the response of intellectuals to the current economic problems? What do their ideas mean in reality? What is their goal in expressing such opinions? (498)
  • Why do people seek out escapist amusements and evangelical religion when they cannot afford basic necessities? (499)
  • Why does Orren Boyle send steel to the People's State of Germany rather than fill Atlantic Southern Railroad's order? What is the reaction of the president of Atlantic Southern? Why is he silenced? What are the practical results? (499-500)
  • What does Francisco mean when he says, "you can't have your cake and let your neighbor eat it, too"? How and why is he denounced for that statement? (499)
  • How was the Taggart Bridge built? What is its current significance to the economy – and why? (500)
  • Which ships does Ragnar Danneskjöld choose to sink rather than seize? Why might he do that? What is the economic effect of that policy? (500)
  • Why doesn't Hank Rearden's failure to deliver the rails of Rearden Steel to Taggart Transcontinental matter to Dagny Taggart? Why does that failure still matter to him? (501)
  • How do the economic controls enacted create black markets? What are the effects on the people who work in them – and why? (501)
  • How do the board members of Taggart Transcontinental communicate their opinions? What facts do they consider important in their decision-making? What does that reveal about them? (501-1)
  • Who is Mr. Weatherby? What is his purpose at the Taggart Transcontinental board meeting? How do the board members treat him – and why? (502-11)
  • Why is Mr. Weatherby interested in raising the wages of railroad workers? Why is Jim Taggart panicked by that proposal? Is either man honest in his claims? How so or not? (503-4)
  • Why does Dagny sense that the board members resent her, not Mr. Weatherby? What does that reveal about them? (505)
  • How and why does Dagny openly blame the board for the current predicament of Taggart Transcontinental? Is that just? Is it helpful? How is that different from her response to the San Sebastián debacle? (507, 510-1, 75-6)
  • What is Mr. Weatherby's response to the proposal to repeal the regulations on the length and speed of trains? Why? (507-8)
  • What is Dagny's view of the future of Taggart Transcontinental? Why? (509)
  • What does Mr. Weatherby threaten to do with the Taggart Transcontinental bonds? Why? What is Dagny's response? Why? (510)
  • What is Dagny's state of mind as she leaves the meeting? What does Francisco offer her? Why is that surprising? How does this meeting affect Dagny's view of Francisco? (511-7)
  • What story does Francisco tell Dagny about Sebastián d'Anconia? What is its significance? (516)
  • What does Dagny ask Francisco about Hank Rearden – and why? What is most significant in their exchange on that topic? (516-7)
  • What is Francisco's story about John Galt? How is it true? (517)

About Explore Atlas Shrugged

Do you want to better understand and appreciate Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged?

Explore Atlas Shrugged is an in-depth course consisting of a podcast series, study questions, and other resources by philosopher Dr. Diana Brickell. The course breaks Atlas Shrugged into 20 manageable sessions, each covering about 65 pages of the novel.

Explore Atlas Shrugged will inspire fresh insights into the complex events, characters, and ideas of Ayn Rand's epic novel, whether you've read it just once or a dozen times before.

Check out the previews, then purchase access to the whole of Explore Atlas Shrugged for just $20. The written materials of Explore Atlas Shrugged are also available from Amazon in paperback and kindle formats, and purchasers of those editions pay just $10 for access to the podcasts.

Purchase Explore Atlas Shrugged

Access to the online version of Explore Atlas Shrugged costs just $20. It's half off – just $10 – for purchasers of the paperback and kindle editions of the book version. Also, if you contribute to Philosophy in Action's Tip Jar via recurring weekly or monthly contributions (or the equivalent), please email me for free access.

Terms of Sale: (1) You may share the podcasts with members of your household, but not beyond that. (2) You may share the study questions with members of your household, as well as with participants in your online or in-person Atlas Shrugged Reading Group. (3) Do not ever post the podcasts, study questions, or login credentials in any public forum.

Item: Course: Explore Atlas Shrugged ($20)

Praise for Explore Atlas Shrugged

The response to Explore Atlas Shrugged has been overwhelmingly positive, including the following remarks:

I require students to read Atlas Shrugged in my introductory economics class. Dr. Hsieh's Explore Atlas Shrugged podcasts were an essential tool to help communicate the novel's lesson and hold effective class discussion. Do not attempt to teach the book without consulting the podcasts first!

— Bailey Norwood, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University


Thank you, thank you, thank you, Diana – our GLO Atlas Reading Group is going so very well. We have about 12-13 people attending, and it is truly the most fun we've had in a long time. So much rewarding fun comes out of your ideas and organization. Can't thank you enough for your efforts!!!


I just wanted to send you a quick note and thank you for your efforts on Explore Atlas Shrugged. As part of the Charm City Objectivists Society we used your questions and podcast to help kick off our reading group yesterday for session one. We had epiphanies all around the table from someone who is a firm student of Objectivism to a person who had read Atlas Shrugged but is new to Objectivism. I know that neither Ray (our moderator) or myself could have undertaken this kind of thing without the wonderful resource you have created. You have helped me make a difference in my community and I thank you for it.


The other day, I began listening to your Explore Atlas Shrugged podcasts. I have read and listened to the book several times, but it has been admittedly too long since the last time. Although I can not adequately express how much experiencing your podcasts has meant to me and the extent to which they have reinvigorated me, I did want to thank you...Thank you.

About the Author

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.

From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.

You can listen to these 362 podcasts by subscribing to the Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the podcast archive, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.

My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.

You can also read my blog NoodleFood and subscribe to its Blog RSS Feed.

I can be reached via e-mail to [email protected].

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