TUESDAY, November 1, 2011 7:00 PM Arrival Time

The Testa Dura-bility of Dagny
Video of talk by Marsha Familaro Enright
Given at The Atlas Society Free Minds 2010 Summer Seminar

Dagny is one of the most intelligent characters in Atlas Shrugged, yet takes the longest to accept John Galt’s proof that her work helps evil more than it does good.  She requires much more evidence than any other character before she quits, even though she has multiple opportunities to do so.  Yet, Galt and the other men of the valley accept her lengthy journey not only with equanimity, but with respect.

In Italian-American culture, she would be called a “testa dura”–which means “hard head” with many subtle implications about character and temperament.  What makes it so hard for Dagny to quit?  What factors and features prevent her from quitting?  Why are the heroes so tolerant of her foot dragging?  This is a paradox worth exploring especially for its implication in our dealings with others.

Marsha first reviews the evidence about Dagny’s character and actions, then summarizes their implications for moral judgment and the way in which we should deal with other people.

I. Who is Dagny Taggart?  A review of various scenes in Atlas Shrugged
A. What character and personality traits Rand emphasizes.
B. How Dagny treats–and judges–others.
C. Testa Dura par excellence: How Dagny responds to the idea of going on strike.
D. How the other heroes treat her–and why they act that way.

II. The Moral Lessons of Atlas Shrugged
A. Principles by which to judge other people.
B. Does the integrated nature of knowledge inevitably lead one from wrong premises to wrong conclusions?
C. Patience as a consequence of recognizing the individual’s context of knowledge.

Marsha Enright, M.A., is the Founder and President of the Reason Individualism Freedom Institute and an Adjunct Professor at Shimer College in Chicago.  Marsha first read Ayn Rand while in high school and has incorporated Ayn Rand’s philosophy into her life ever since.  She founded the New Intellectual Forum, an Objectivist discussion club/salon, 22 years ago.

Trained as a psychotherapist, Marsha founded Council Oak Montessori School for ages 3 to 15 twenty years ago for her children.  She is still its president.  Currently, she is working to open a new liberal arts college incorporating Montessori educational philosophy for the young adult.  Its curriculum uses the Great Books classics, including the works of Ayn Rand and classical liberal thinkers neglected in other institutions.  It places a heavy emphasis on learning good reasoning processes in all subject areas, from math to poetry.

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