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Ayn Rand, Private Investigator: Detection in Fiction and Philosophy

Shoshana Milgram

Presented at: OCON 2011

Date: Jul 02, 2011

Ayn Rand’s writings emphasize the search for solutions to mysteries: using one’s mind to discover a hidden truth. In “Philosophical Detection,” she compares studying philosophy to reading detective fiction: by uncovering implicit premises, the philosophical detective is able to “discover who is a murderer and who is a hero.” Atlas Shrugged, her masterpiece, is “a mystery story about the murder—and rebirth—of man’s spirit.” Her plays, too, depend on the revelation of concealed facts. Through following the tracks of Ayn Rand, private investigator, we see the active power of reason, in reading and in all realms of reality.

Topics include: the method of philosophical detection (with examples from Ayn Rand’s non-fiction), a link between epistemology and ethics (rationality as a route to justice), Aristotle’s Poetics as a model for detective fiction, “backward construction” in Ayn Rand’s plays, and Atlas Shrugged as a brilliant example of a multi-level mystery.


Parts: 3

Handout: none