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 7

7 December 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 7. 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 7 of Explore Atlas Shrugged covers:

  • Part 2: Chapter 2: The Aristocracy of Pull
  • Part 2: Chapter 3: White Blackmail (Sections 1-3)

Preview the Podcast

Listen to the podcast preview of Session 7 of Explore Atlas Shrugged now – or download it:

  • Preview Duration: 18:56 (Full Podcast: 1:13:40)
  • Download Preview: Standard MP3 File (6.5 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 2: The Aristocracy of Pull

Section 1 (379-382)

Dagny Taggart reflects on the disappearance of more Colorado industrialists and on her hiring of Quentin Daniels to work on the motor. She speaks to the newspaper stand owner about the cigarette with the dollar sign given her by Dr. Hugh Akston.

Core Question

  • What kind of person is Quentin Daniels? Why did he refuse to work for the State Science Institute? Why is he the right person to work on the motor? (380-1)

Extra Questions

  • What is the current state of the world? How has the economy changed in the past year? (379-80)
  • Why is Ted Nielsen so puzzled by the disappearance of industrialists like Roger Marsh? What is Dagny's view of these disappearances? (379-80)
  • What values and qualities does Quentin Daniels share with Dagny? Why are those important? (380-1)
  • What does Daniels ask for from Dagny in exchange for his work on the motor? What do they reveal about him? (380-1)
  • What does the newspaper stand owner discover about the cigarette with the dollar sign? What is the importance of that discovery? (382)

Section 2 (383-387)

While Hank Rearden waits in his dark hotel room for Dagny Taggart, he reflects on his just-completed meeting with Ken Danagger. Lillian Rearden enters unexpectedly, and she demands that they attend Jim Taggart's wedding to Cherryl Brooks. Hank resists initially but ultimately submits to Lillian's demand.

Core Questions

  • What business agreement did Hank Rearden make with Ken Danagger? What are the risks? Why are they willing to take those risks? (383-4)
  • How does Lillian attempt to persuade Hank to attend Jim's wedding with her? Why does Hank want to do anything but that? Why does Hank ultimately agree to attend? (385-7)

Extra Questions

  • How do Danagger and Hank plan to violate the "Fair Share" directives? Do they have any lawful alternatives? Are they right or wrong to break the law? (383-4)
  • What type of blackmail is Danagger willing to pay? What type is he not willing to pay? Why does that make a difference to him? (383-4)
  • What is Hank's emotional response to the prospect of going to jail for breaking the "Fair Share" directives? Why? Is that reaction right or wrong? Is it understandable? (383-4)
  • What is the "essential connection" between Hank's two secrets – his illegal deal with Danagger and his illicit affair with Dagny? Why doesn't he see that connection yet? (384)
  • What is Hank's state of mind when Lillian enters Hank's hotel room? Why does that matter? (384)
  • Why didn't Lillian make plans with Hank to attend Jim's wedding in advance? What advantage did she hope to gain thereby? Why was that strategy so effective? (385-7)
  • What does Lillian think of Jim's marriage? Why is it just what she'd expect from him? Why would Lillian never do anything similar? (385)
  • Why does Lillian look for signs of a woman in Hank's hotel room? What is Hank's reaction – and why? (385-6)
  • Why is Hank susceptible to Lillian's claims of duty? Would Dagny ever claim his attention as a duty, if she were his wife? Why or why not? (386-7)

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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