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No Tributes to Caesar: Good or Evil in Atlas Shrugged

Tara Smith

Presented at: OCON 2009

Date: Jul 03, 2009

Atlas Shrugged vividly dramatizes the inescapability of, and the stakes involved in, making value choices. This lecture examines the mutually exclusive nature of the alternative between good and evil in order to illuminate the action of the novel and the “extremism” of Ayn Rand’s moral code.

Why does Galt declare that “man’s reason is his moral faculty?” What does it mean, truly, to love life? Or to accept the death premise? By tracing pivotal elements in the protagonists’ progressive understanding of the essential nature of their alternatives, Dr. Smith makes us appreciate why man’s existence permits “no tributes to Caesar.” She shows how the heroes’ deeper knowledge of their alternatives influences their actions—in particular, actions that initially strike many readers as unduly harsh. More broadly, the lecture makes clear how the mutually exclusive, do-or-die character of the alternative between good and evil dictates the absolutist character of Rand’s moral code.

Note: This lecture is a version of an essay in Essays on Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”


Parts: 1

Handout: none


  • e-Store, 2012 (En) - 84 mins
  • CD, 2009 (En) - 84 mins - 2 CD set