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 2

12 October 2009

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 2. 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 2 of Explore Atlas Shrugged covers:

  • Part 1: Chapter 4: The Immovable Movers
  • Part 1: Chapter 5: The Climax of the d'Anconias

Preview the Podcast

Listen to the podcast preview of Session 2 of Explore Atlas Shrugged now – or download it:

  • Preview Duration: 14:02 (Full Podcast: 49:01)
  • Download Preview: Standard MP3 File (4.8 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 1: Chapter 4: Immovable Movers

Section 1 (64-69)

On his return from an unsatisfying meeting with United Locomotive Works, Eddie Willers informs Dagny Taggart of Dick McNamara's sudden retirement. That evening, Dagny walks through the streets of New York City, seeking greatness but finding only degradation. She returns home to listen to the music of Richard Halley, reflecting on the story of his struggle, success, and disappearance. In the newspaper, she reads that Francisco d'Anconia has returned to the city.

Core Questions

  • Why does Dagny seek to be a passive spectator of greatness? Why is that so important to her? What does she find instead? (65-6)
  • What is the story of composer Richard Halley? Why is that significant? What does Dagny experience through his music? (67-8)

Extra Questions

  • Why is motive power so important to Taggart Transcontinental? Why is movement needed to keep the Taggart Building immovable? (64)
  • Why is Dagny so angered by the sight of the machinery rotted due to neglect? What does that mean to her? (64)
  • How and why is McNamara's retirement significant to Dagny and Eddie? Does it matter to them beyond merely the building of the Rio Norte Line? (64-5)
  • What are the common themes in the art (and the people) that Dagny sees on the streets? How does that contrast with the music of Richard Halley? (66-8)
  • What is the news about Francisco d'Anconia? How does Dagny react to it? (69)

Section 2 (70-72)

Jim Taggart and Betty Pope arise in mutual contempt after a night together. Jim receives a phone call informing him that the Mexican government has nationalized the San Sebastián Mines and Line.

Core Questions

  • How do Jim and Betty feel about and treat each other? What does that reveal about their characters and values? (70-2)
  • How does Jim plan to make Dagny "a little easier to manage"? How and why does his mood change upon thinking about that? (71-2)

Extra Questions

  • Why does Betty think that Dagny is unfeminine? Is she right or wrong? (71)
  • Given the news about the nationalization of the San Sebastián Mines and Line, will Jim be able to put his plan for Dagny into action? (71-2)
  • Is the news from Mexico truly "a bolt out of the blue"? Why does the caller use that excuse? (72)

Section 3 (72)

Jim Taggart speaks to the board of Taggart Transcontinental, reassuring them about the nationalization of the San Sebastián Line.

Core Question

  • How and why does Jim spin the nationalization of the San Sebastián Line to the board? Why do they accept it? (72)

Extra Question

  • Will Taggart Transcontinental receive "full and just compensation" for the San Sebastián Line as Jim claims? Why or why not? Do they deserve it? (72)

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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