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 12

19 February 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 12. 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 12 of Explore Atlas Shrugged covers:

  • Part 3: Chapter 1: Atlantis

Preview the Podcast

Listen to the podcast preview of Session 12 of Explore Atlas Shrugged now – or download it:

  • Preview Duration: 41:46 (Full Podcast: 1:04:55)
  • Download Preview: Standard MP3 File (14.4 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 3: Chapter 1: Atlantis

Section 1 (701-733)

Dagny Taggart awakens after her plane crash to find herself face-to-face with John Galt in a hidden valley. She meets Dr. Hugh Akston and Midas Mulligan, and Dr. Robert Hendricks treats her injuries. Quentin Daniels rushes in to apologize for leaving Utah. John takes Dagny for a car ride through the valley. He shows her the people that he has taken from her, and then he stops at the power station that uses his motor. Finally, Dagny takes a much-needed nap.

Core Questions

  • What does Dagny see in and feel for John when she first meets him? Can one person see that much in another at first sight? (701-2, 704)
  • How does John sport with Dagny? Why does he do that? What does that reveal about him? (702-13, 727)
  • What major discoveries does Dagny make about John in this initial meeting? Who is he? Why does that matter to her? What does she think of and feel for him? (706, 710-11, 701-16)
  • What is the attitude of the residents of the valley toward their past work in the outside world and their present work in the valley? In what way are all these people simply "living" in the valley? How does Dagny's view differ? (713, 717-27)
  • Why does Midas Mulligan charge John a fee to use his car rather than allowing him to use it for free? Is that reason right? Should we live in the same way? Why or why not? (713-4)
  • Why is Dagny penniless in the valley? Why won't anyone sell her any gold? (717-8, 727-8)
  • Why is one gallon of Ellis Wyatt's oil in the valley worth more to him than a trainful of oil in the outside world? Is he right? (721-2)
  • How and why did Andrew Stockton ruin his competitor? What are the practical results of that? How and why does Stockton want to be ruined in turn? What does that reveal about the view of competition in the valley? (723-5)
  • How does Dagny respond to seeing the powerhouse? Why? How does it affect her view of John? (730-3)
  • What is John's oath? What is its meaning and significance to him and the other people in the valley? (731)

Extra Questions

  • What does John mean when he tells Dagny that the valley is the Taggart Terminal? What does he mean when he tells her that a person can leave the valley temporarily but not actually? (702-3)
  • Why is the valley hidden by a ray screen? What would happen if the valley were to be discovered? (704)
  • What is the meaning of the gold dollar sign in the town? (706)
  • Why does Dagny think that she should have realized that John invented the motor? (706)
  • In what way is Dagny the first "scab"? (707)
  • How has Quentin Daniels "gone the whole way by himself"? (707)
  • Why does Dagny wince upon hearing Hank Rearden's name? How does John respond to that? (707-8)
  • In what way have the people of the valley been trying to reach Dagny? (709)
  • What is the "first rule" of the valley? Why is that important? How is that practiced? (709)
  • What does John mean when he tells Dagny that "the contradiction" destroyed the John Galt Line? (710)
  • What did John do to stop the motor of the world? What is the significance of that? (710)
  • How long has John been watching Dagny? What is her response to that? (711)
  • Who is Dr. Thomas Hendricks? Why is Dagny surprised to see him? (711)
  • What does John mean in speaking of "the one and only time" when he didn't think of Dagny? Why does he speak so plainly? (712)
  • How is Dagny's breakfast the most expensive and the cheapest that she's ever eaten? (713)
  • How did John introduce himself to Quentin Daniels? Why didn't Daniels need to think twice about his choice between the outside world and John? How and why is he different from Dagny? (715)
  • How and why is Sanders Aircraft wherever Dwight Sanders is? (717)
  • What is Dagny's reaction to the three professors who work for Dick McNamara? Is her implicit criticism right or wrong? (718-9)
  • Why does McNamara suggest that he followed the John Galt Line, while Dagny betrayed it? Is he right? (719)
  • Why does John reject Dagny's statement that she lost the men in the valley, instead insisting that he took them away from her? What does that reveal about his moral character? (719)
  • Why does Dagny think that the jobs in the valley are lousy? Why does Ellis Wyatt disagree? Who is right? (721)
  • What is the practical effect of the increased productivity identified by Wyatt? How and why is that effect important to a person's life? (722)
  • Why can't Dagny imagine John submitting to the looters? (722)
  • Why does Dagny feel that Hank Rearden's presence in the valley is both impossible and perfectly right? (724)
  • Why is Dagny so shocked to hear Andrew Stockton advocate for hiring the best man for the job? Why is that right? (725-6)
  • What does Dagny think upon seeing actress Kay Ludlow working in a cafeteria? Is she right? (727)
  • Why is Dagny surprised to find that Midas Mulligan mints coins? What does that mean to her? (727-8)
  • How does Francisco d'Anconia's house differ from the homes of the other strikers? What does it remind her of? Why? (728-9)
  • What does John know of Dagny's past relationship with Francisco? How does he know that? (729)
  • How does the lock of the powerhouse operate? Why is that important? Why wouldn't Dagny dream of breaking into the powerhouse? (733)
  • What does Dagny feel upon falling asleep for her nap? (733)

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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