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 3

19 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 3. 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 3 of Explore Atlas Shrugged covers:

  • Part 1: Chapter 6: The Non-Commercial
  • Part 1: Chapter 7: The Exploiters and the Exploited (Sections 1-4)

Preview the Podcast

Listen to the podcast preview of Session 3 of Explore Atlas Shrugged now – or download it:

  • Preview Duration: 40:20 (Full Podcast: 1:00:50)
  • Download Preview: Standard MP3 File (13.9 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 6: The Non-Commercial

Section 1 (127-157)

Hank Rearden attends his anniversary party, to which Lillian Rearden has invited mostly her friends. Guests discuss the pending Equalization of Opportunity Bill, Hank speaks with unexpected guest Francisco d'Anconia, and Dagny Taggart trades her diamond bracelet for Lillian's bracelet of Rearden Metal.

Core Questions

  • How – and why – does Hank struggle to play his role at his anniversary party? What is the nature and source of his inner conflict? (127-31, 136-40)
  • What is the Equalization of Opportunity Bill? What is its analogy in our laws? What does Hank think of it – and of its chance of being passed? (130)
  • How does Hank respond to Dagny at the party? Why is Dagny disappointed? Why does he act as he does? (137-8, 144, 149-51)
  • Why is Hank so angry at the presence of Bertram Scudder? How and why does Lillian respond as she does to Hank's anger? Why did she invite Scudder to the party? (139-40)
  • How does Francisco explain the worthlessness of the San Sebastián Mines to Jim Taggart? What moral principles did Francisco act on in that endeavor? How does Jim react – and why? (142-4)
  • What does Hank reveal about his view of the world in his conversation with Francisco? How do their outlooks differ? How does Francisco want to arm Hank for the future? Why does the conversation matter so much to Hank? (145-9)
  • What events lead to Dagny's demand for the Rearden Metal bracelet from Lillian? What is Dagny's state of mind before, during, and after the exchange? Why does Lillian agree to trade it with her? How does Hank respond to that exchange – and why? (154-7)

Extra Questions

  • Why does Hank think himself obliged to give his wife "some form of existence unrelated to business"? Why and how does he fail? What is his family's response to that failure? (128-9)
  • Why does Lillian wear the bracelet of Rearden Metal – and wear it in the way that she does – to the anniversary party? Why does Hank want to tear it off of her? (131)
  • What does the conversation of the ordinary people at the party reveal about the state of the culture? How are these people different from the intellectuals? (131-6, 151-4)
  • What philosophical ideas does Dr. Simon Pritchett espouse? How do those ideas lead him to support the Equalization of Opportunity Bill? (131-3)
  • What kind of artists are Balph Eubank and Mort Liddy? Who are their counterparts in our culture? (133-4)
  • Why do Bertram Scudder, Philip Rearden, and Claude Slagenhop support the Equalization of Opportunity Bill? Are their reasons sound? (134-6)
  • What is the significance of the fact that the Equalization of Opportunity Bill is backed by the Friends of Global Progress? (135-6, 40-3)
  • Is "the look of being chained" the "most feminine of all aspects"? Why or why not? (136)
  • Why does Lillian say that "the wife of a great man has to be contented with reflected glory"? Does she mean it – and, if so, in what way? Why does Dagny disagree? (137)
  • Why does Balph Eubank tell Jim that his sister Dagny is famous? What does Eubank think of what she is – and what she should be? (138)
  • Why does Hank ask Lillian to steer him clear of Francisco? What does he think of Francisco? What does Lillian think of Francisco? Why? (140)
  • Why does Hank resent Lillian's and Philip's seeming attempts to ensure that he's enjoying himself at the party? Why is he bothered by his mother's stories of his rise? What motivates her to tell such stories? (144-5)
  • Why does Francisco offer to leave the party upon introducing himself to Hank? What effect does that have on Hank – and why? (145)
  • What is the significance of Francisco's gratitude to Hank? Does Hank need that gratitude? Why or why not? (146-7)
  • Why is the conversation between Hank and Francisco so surprising to Dagny? How does it differ – in style and in substance – from Francisco's conversations with Jim and others at the party? (149)
  • Why does Hank tell Dagny that he invited Bertram Scudder to the party, given his prior anger that Lillian invited Scudder? (149-50, 139)
  • Why is Dagny glad that Hank didn't seem to understand her remarks about the meaning of celebration? What did she reveal? (150)
  • Who is Ragnar Danneskjöld? Why are the people around the fireplace so disturbed by his exploits? (151-3)
  • What account of John Galt does the woman tell Dagny? How is it true as an allegory? (153-4)
  • What is Dagny's style of femininity? (154, 136)
  • Why does Francisco say to Dagny, "What a magnificent waste!" as he looks at her body? How does that capture her own feelings about the evening? (154-5)
  • What pleasure does Dagny take in wearing the bracelet of Rearden Metal? Why is that unusual for her? (156)

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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