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  1. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    SCHEDULE START WEEK - Monday, 29th June, 2015. END WEEK - Monday, 2nd August, 2015. Week 1 YEARS IN RUSSIA Monday, 29th June - Sunday, 5th July - Russia in Turmoil - Philosophical Studies (Pg 217-222) Week 2 INITIAL YEARS IN AMERICA, TILL THE PUBLICATION OF "THE FOUNTAINHEAD" Monday, 6th July - Sunday, 12th July - America – Free to write - An ideal man, a man of reason (Pg 222-228) Week 3 FROM RECEPTION OF "THE FOUNTAINHEAD", TO THE RECEPTION OF "ATLAS SHRUGGED" Monday, 13th July - Sunday, 19th July - (Contd..) An ideal man, a man of reason - The final novel (Pg 228-233) Week 4 NON FICTION WRITINGS AND INTELLECTUAL ACTIVISM (PART 1) (Works other than Epistemology) Monday, 20th July - Sunday, 26th July - Changing vehicles - A Philosopher's provisional summary - Opening and Closing channels - Branch Books (Pg 233-241) Week 5 NON FICTION WRITINGS AND INTELLECTUAL ACTIVISM (PART 2) (Mainly work related to Epistemology) Monday, 27th July - Sunday, 2nd August - A Definition of Reason - Shifting Gears - Reason as Integration (Pg 241-245) Week 6 REVIEW, SUMMARY, AND FUTURE STUDIES Monday, 29th June, 2015. I have framed 48 Questions which I will split across 5 weeks. Participants can answer all or some of those questions. Of course, participants are free to study by summarizing, outlining, or chewing sections of their choice from the text under study for that week.
  2. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    The main study-group is just 1 week away.... Continuing preparatory studies, today I posted final set of preparatory questions. These also will be answered later this week. Originals are posted here :- THE POWER AND THE GLORY ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Questions Q1. What information does “Acknowledgments” here give about the nature of book? Q2. What role did various other individuals play in this book? Q3. Who reviewed the Ayn Rand chapter?
  3. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    Today I posted answers to questions I had posted on Tuesday, 16th june as part preparatory. Sharing sample here. All answers can be viewed in the link. --------------------------------- Q7. In current context, why does the writer think its necessary to define key terms like reason? Ans: The term like reason refers to idea. However, if we look at the history of that idea, we see that its terms have changed from logos, to ratio, to raison etc. And more importantly, the debater's interpretation of the idea varies. However, there has to be one meaning in reality that should be used as a standard. Then the position of debaters can be compared against this standard. This method of comparison thus offers continuity across debaters of same idea. And thus the definition acts as a standard, making it easier to abstract relevant elements in position. ---------------------------------
  4. Trailer can be viewed here **************************SPOILER ALERT******************* "Tanu Weds Manu returns" starts with the separation of Indian couple in London, Tanu and Manu. Cause of separation can easily be inferred to as the overly dominating nature of Tanu. On return to India, Tanu starts flirting with her ex-boyfriends and new neighbor, while still getting information on what Manu is upto. When she realizes that Manu is marrying her lookalike Kusum, she tries to mock her. On failing, she insists on attending the marriage. Finally, at the last moment Kusum realizes that Manu is not prepared to marry her, and on being asked Manu decides to return to Tanu. I was profoundly impacted by this movie. Director Anand Rai is turning out to be the Dostovesky of Bollywood. Comparing Romantic literature Dostovesky was part of(completely different from Yash Chopra type romantic movies), to Naturalism. What stands out is that in Romanticism every aspect of art product is extremely relevant to the overall product. In naturalist movie "Bhag Milkha Bhag" for example, or "Paan Singh Tomar", there were many events which made little or no contribution to the overall pursuit of characters' goals. In fact in both cases, the goals got changed in the middle of story. In "Tanu Weds Manu returns" however, the goals of main characters are clear from the beginning to the end, even though most of the realization comes once the movie is over. And every scene and dialog is directed to present that pursuit. So from Tanu's flirtations with multiple men, to Manu's passive commitment to Kusum, to Kusum's contextually rational acts to direct Manu into a healthy romantic relationship. The goals are clear from the start. Tanu wants to dominate men to the extreme, and therefore wants someone who can be torn apart emotionally and still wants to remain with her. Manu wants a healthy relationship which is also emotionally gratifying. Kusum wants a life where she can assert her independence and yet live joyously with her family or romantic partner. BUT there is a sub-category in Romanticism. There are rational goals and there are irrational goals. What ought to be right path can be asserted by showing characters pursuing right goals and succeeding. This was positive Romanticism of Victor Hugo, Ayn Rand, and reluctantly pursued but still positive Romanticism of Nanthaniel Howthorne in "The Scarlet Letter". In the declining years of Enlightenment however, Dostovesky became the king of negative Romanticism. Here what is right was indirectly demonstrated when main characters pursued wrong goals and failed. "Crime and Punishment" is the most vibrant story I can think of in this regard. Further, for Dostovesky whenever there was conflict between reason and emotion, emotion was given primacy. And here too Manu finally returns to Tanu, giving primacy to wrong emotions over right reasons. So when we look at the goals of three main characters, only one goal is achieved, that of Tanu. And of the three goals, this is the one which is an irrational goal. The achievement of this goal is at the cost of Manu's and Kusum's goals, and requires their approval. True, here the connection between goals and means is not direct. The irrational goal pursuit almost fails, but for the sanction of victims. And pursuit of rational goals fail, because of the weakness of one pursuing. The final takeway is that if you give primacy to wrong emotions over right reasons, like Manu you will end up accepting misery - again. Finally, I would highlight a scene of this movie, which I think is philosophically most significant scene in Bollywood to date. The one where Tanu encounters Kusum. She mocks her dressing sense, her personality. And she mocks Manu for sacrificing her for lady worth a dime. The answer she gets from Kusum is a perfect rebuttal. Her independence is questioned by presenting her dependence on father before, and husband later. She is told in no uncertain terms, that given her behavior, she does not deserve even iota of what she got. The dependence of Tanu is contrasted from independence of Kusum. Latter is a self-made national level athlete, and honestly earns for her family. The effect of this rebuttal, like any moral stand by a person of integrity against intimidating enemy, it shatters Tanu to the core. Till now manipulating and conniving Tanu is emotionally broken. True, she continues the tactics to attract Manu, but the confidence is all but gone. And she realizes that final outcome rests on the character weakness of Manu. As an important sidenote, the movie and its interpretations are suffering from a major distortion. People are taking this to be an example of normal marital discord, and accepting compromise as a good solution. Nothing can be further away from truth. All marital arguments cannot be clubbed as being of same type. I think we should broadly classify three types of marital problems. One where both sides rationally evaluate options and conclude that there are irreconcilable priorities. An example of this can be husband-wife having different view of own and other's career, and hoping that other will make way for me to succeed. Then there are other types of fights, where too both have rationally evaluated, but one makes an error in judgment. An example of this can be a situation where the two are trying to evaluate their spending needs, and one suggestion proposes to sacrifice things that are necessary for them in life for luxurious or comforting items. And then there are situations like we have in the movie. Here only motivation for the spouse is to break the soul of her other half. Twisting words and narratives to distort reality, and extract disproportional guilt for actions. If this is the motivation and attitude, then no compromise can save except genuine change of heart. And given the cultural atmosphere we live in today, rarely are tools available for such change in late adoloscence. Finally to conclude, I think the movie, though imperfect, is step in the right direction. Connected movies of Romanticism have power to motivate like few other art works can. We should learn virtues of Integrity, Independence, from the character of Kusum in "Tanu Weds Manu returns". And learn to give primacy to right reasons over badly understood emotions.
  5. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    Continuing preparatory studies, today I posted second set of questions. These also will be answered later this week. Originals are posted here :- INTRODUCTION TO “THE POWER AND THE GLORY” (PART 2) Questions Q7. In current context, why does the writer think its necessary to define key terms like reason? Q8. Briefly explain reason, as it is described here? Q9. Briefly explain faith, as it is described here? Q10. How does structure of philosophy help writer and reader? Q11. Summarize each branch of philosophy with brief description? Q12. How can studying references at later point of time be useful? What is the nature of these references?
  6. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    Today I posted answers to questions I had posted on Tuesday, 9th june as part preparatory. Sharing sample here. All answers can be viewed in the link. ---------------------------------------------- Q6. What is the theme of this book? Ans: The theme is to understand how success is achieved in dissemination of ideas. That is through commitment to develop the position on ideas, and through persistent effort to advance these ideas. That is, the power of debaters is in understanding the ideas, and glory lies in disseminating these ideas. ----------------------------------------------
  7. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    Also today I posted questions from Introduction of the book http://forum.objecti...363#entry336226 ------------------------------------------ INTRODUCTION TO “THE POWER AND THE GLORY” (PART 1) Questions Q1. Which non-fiction category book belongs to? What is it about? ( Just give key terms and their importance. Further details can be deferred to A4. on scope ) Q2. Who are the intended audience, and what can they expect in this book? Q3. What is the purpose of this book? Q4. What is the scope of this book? Q5. What was the procedure employed by the writer to write this book? Q6. What is the theme of this book? ------------------------------------------
  8. Real time reports on Ayn Rand study-group

    Study-Group starts on June 29. Till then I am publishing some preparatory material in advertisement thread. I have published Ayn Rand's timeline here - http://forum.objecti...363#entry336226 Further I plan to study Introduction and Acknowledgments from the book in Q&A form.
  9. Purpose of this thread is to describe what is happening in Ayn Rand study group we announced here - The updates will be real time, that is within day or two of event happening.

    STUDY GROUP ON "AYN RAND" CHAPTER FROM "THE POWER AND THE GLORY" BY BURGESS LAUGHLIN PURPOSE OF STUDY-GROUPS Organised self-study, that is the ability to think and communicate in a structured manner, is an important part of almost all professions. Successful action requires thought that efficiently organizes facts, infers conclusions based on valid principles, and facilitates implementable guidelines for success. By regularly participating in study-groups, people can develop discipline it takes to excel in life. PURPOSE OF THIS STUDY-GROUP In past two centuries Western thought has witnessed greatest intellectual decline in the history of mankind. The ideas that led to science of Newton, technology of Edison, and politics that ended centuries of feudalism have been discredited. The decline has impacted education, government, corporate and medical institutions, news media, movies, and mental well-being of mankind in general. The ideas of Ayn Rand promise not just resurrection of ideas that make good things possible, but also build them further. And this study group will introduce you to ideas of Ayn Rand in most concise way possible. Whether its her life, her fiction works, non-fiction, or her activism; everything will be available for you to grasp. So to improve your thought process, please check the link that gives details of study-group. SPECIFICS OF THE STUDY GROUP The study can involve writing summary, writing outline, detailed analysis or synthesis of select section(informally referred as chewing), or answering few / some / all of the questions I will post in the forum. Depending on the type of study, individual needs to spend 10 minutes to 1 hour per day. He can also complete his study in advance, and post on corresponding week. The study-group will be from "chapter 8" on "Ayn Rand" in the book "The Power and The Glory" by Burgess Laughlin. It starts on 29th June, 2015. Please note that participation is not possible without the membership of forum. REMEMBERING BURGESS August 29 last year Burgess passed away. 4th July, 2015 marks his 71st birthday. Burgess, as some of you might know was the non-fiction writer. He specialized in "History of Intellectuals", writing selective biographies of various intellectuals. Emphasis being on the development and dissemination of their ideas. He was also passionate about study-groups, and dedicated to the cause. Leaving behind treasure of various targetted discussions. Of course, he was an Objectivist, an activist for reason using rational discourse. Therefore, the study-group starts on birthweek of Burgess. HOW TO PARTICIPATE In the following thread, please post your intent to participate after sign up. The final study group will take place in a separate thread. Only those who volunteer here by posting intent will be allowed to post there. Posting the intent can be as simple as writing "I will participate". But from the perspective of overall objective of study-groups, which involves trading of ideas, I think it would be good if the volunteers post their motivations and personal objectives of joining. Further, it would be better if the volunteer gives his intellectual, academic and professional history. Here is a link to the forum where final study group will take place. http://forum.objecti...p?showforum=121 Looking forward to an engaging study-group where we improve our thinking, understanding and knowledge.
  11. P.S: First 10 minutes discuss "Antigone" by ancient Greek playright Sophocles.
  12. MOVIE REVIEW - PK(Drunkard)

    After discussions with readers, and further thinking based on the discussion, I realized that while I was promoting objectivity throughout the review, I had ended on a somewhat subjective note. So I here is the updated my conclusion --------------------------- CONCLUSION In complete review, I would have also focused on aspects like screenplay, cinematography, costumes, music, sets, sensibilities etc. In short, director's sensibilities amount to making a hero out of a bully, or resentment towards even genuine rules like wearing clothes and applying tone and gestures to words for denoting context. Most other aspects are quite good and play an important role in highlighting critical elements in theme and plot. Overall however, these aspects of movie are not as important as theme and plot. Not if you are a non-technical viewer who needs to derive spiritual fuel from an art work. In complete scheme of things, the movie should be given one cheer for standing up to something as fundamentally mistaken as religion, and for depicting technical aspects of cinema well. But art and cinema need to do much more for promoting reason in order to resurrect man. Specifically, more emphasis should be given to plots that are driven by value judgments. Of course, I would like rational value judgments to move the story, but even irrational values as movers in movies like Rise of Planet of Apes, or partly rational values for movies mentioned will do. While I give example of Communism as "non-religious but dogmatic". At a deeper level, unless people have confidence in their own judgment, they will continue to hold to dogma in one form or other. And therefore we need to promote good epistemology, that is right method of thinking. And since majority consume "methods of thinking", particularly for judgment of right and wrong, through art products like cinema. Therefore, cinema has to be rational in all major fronts I have highlighted. In particular in demonstrating power of right and wrong judgments, and in highlighting that in longer run, a mistake done using own judgment is much better than 10 safe actions using dogma. (When I say that judgments have to be independent, I do not imply that we need to make every decision starting from reinvention of wheel. Going by the advice of trusted individuals, whether professionals or friends or books is a valid judgment. But contrasted from dogma, the basis of trusted advice is also a rational judgment, where we evaluate the knowledge and skill of person to be trusted.) -------------------
  13. MOVIE REVIEW - PK(Drunkard)

    *****Contains mild spoilers******** Trailer available here - BACKGROUND - Its a 2014 Bollywood movie in Hindi. INTRODUCTION Given the controversy surrounding the movie, two false alternatives have emerged. One that says movie is bad because it hurts religious sentiments of people. And another that says it is good because it destroys religious myths, and is therefore rational. I think the criteria for classifying the movie as good or bad has to be wider. Therefore here I review primary aspects of the movie. THEME The theme of this movie demonstrates the fact about religion. That is how religion in various forms, as it is practiced on earth, is wrong. However, this theme should not be confused with what could have been a completely rational basis for storyline. That is, “there is no God and reason is the only means of living on earth”. The movie does not deny God, and it upholds reason at very few places. REVIEW OF THE THEME The most glaring aspect of the premises is their negativity. That is, while the movie quite comprehensively demonstrates irrational aspects of religions, it does not offer a valid alternative for living. However, one must recognize that religions, at least pagan and polytheistic ones like Hinduism, were an incomplete attempt to define rational code of values. Values, as we know are needed for guiding our short term and long term actions. In Hindu religious framework, Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth, Goddess Saraswati represents knowledge, Durga the courage to fight evil, Hanuman is epitome of body and mental strength, Krishna demonstrates the power of intellect, and so on. A more rational moral code could not have been written without Plato giving a framework that any philosophy and ethics(including religion) follow. And later Aristotle writing detailed books - explicitly defining, describing, applying concept of logic, and giving his own philosophy based on logic. In fact, it was not until Newton, that culture really started understanding how to use logic for solving their problems. Two-thousand years after Aristotle, and detailed study of his logic in the intermediate period by many scholars. Coming back to the movie, the implicit alternative it does offer to religion is altruism. That is if one sacrifices life and values for strangers, then one is in the right path. This can be judged by the fact that more the two main characters see each other as altruistic, the more they bond with one another. Another approach movie upholds is pragmatism. That is rejection of principles like right and wrong judgment, whenever it is inconvenient. We can see this in facts like the situation where PK is stealing clothes from cars, or money from religious places. History offers a very strong example of philosophy that rejects religion but upholds altruism. Communists claimed to be atheists in letter, but were actually religious in spirit. That is they were mostly dogmatic in claiming that “dictatorship of proletariats” was the right political option. And if we see the most murderous political regimes, it ranges from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot, all Communists and much worse than Hitler. In short, “rejection of religion”, or any negative premise for that matter, is not a sufficient guide for leading a good and well-reasoned life. PLOT THEME Both theme and plot theme are general statements, and both refer to the events in the story. While the theme covers all or most of the events in story. The plot theme is less general. And it refers to those events which play important role in moving the story forward. So at a plot theme level PK is a story of an alien searching for his stolen transreceiver. And in the process discovers that religion is not the right way to pursue your goals. After his discovery he moves ahead to communicate his views to the mass media audience, because general awakening is the only way for him to recover the transreceiver. REVIEW OF THE PLOT THEME I think the premise of a character searching desperately for stolen object is very shallow and limiting. Personally, in 12000 days of my existence, if I were to recall number of hours spent searching desperately for a thing, it will not exceed 100 hours. Even if we consider impact, overall its our choices that determine course of our lives. Very rarely, an external negative event completely changes our life. Examples of more universal plot themes can be conflict between career and relationships of a travel consultant, in movie Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani. Or during a foreign trip conflict between accepting traditional values and modern lifestyle, in movie Queen. The “premise of turning towards religion” is a valid universal theme, but it has to be in the context of things and situations that occupy our mind more often. Search for a missing object can be a useful plot-theme for children movies, but not for the ones that should connect to adults pursuing deeper values. PLOT Plot of the movie can be divided into following parts(not necessarily chronological) : 1. Alien PK trying to look at survival options on earth, Rajasthan India in this case. I will classify this as Survival Phase. 2. PK acquiring skills like language, and turning towards religion to search for his stolen transreceiver. I will classify this part as Quest Phase. 3. PK meeting female protagonist Jaggu, and Jaggu getting convinced that PK is indeed alien. Meeting Jaggu. 4. After being motivated by Jaggu, PK trying to convince Godman that his communication with God is mistaken. Convincing Godman. 5. PK discovering that Godman is not mistaken but a lier. True motives. 6. PK falling in love with Jaggu. Falling in Love. 7. Climax where Godman is comprehensively proven wrong in front of mass audience. Climax. Sub Plot: Before she meets PK in New Delhi, Jaggu's love story in Belgium forms the subplot. In climax the sub-plot gets connected to the main plot. REVIEW OF DRIVING ELEMENTS IN PLOT Here I look in greater detail at various parts of plot described in previous section. In particular I analyze plot elements that move the story forward. 1. Survival Phase : PK, while depicted as an alien from advanced civilization, is closer to a savage or a tribal in his method of thinking and acting. An intelligent savage, but savage nevertheless. And actions here are similar to the bully who does not have any major goals in life, and instead troubles people who are trying to live their own lives without causing any trouble to others. A tribal who does not try to reason source of values like food and clothing. But instead is just interested in grabbing by crooked methods. 2. Quest Phase : Once he discovers means of survival, mainly through petty thefts, he does apply basic reasoning to discover that finding the transreceiver will require him to develop communication skills. While its a sci-fi movie, and imagination with regard to whats not likely in reality is permissible. I think its necessary to understand an aspect of a good sci-fi movie. That is what can be right technology in such movies, and what is wrong kind of technology. In Atlas Shrugged(novel), experimental and mathematical effort needed for discovering advanced generator was demonstrated. In Jurassic Park, technology like “artificially creating Dinosaurs” had realistic foundations in Genetics and cloning technology. The ability to learn language, and corresponding images and concepts by simply touching humans carries no such rational foundations. And therefore this driving force in plot is closer to supernatural. Further, PK taking religion seriously is another example of putting random opinion of people above one's rational considerations. True, eventually he starts questioning religion, but the extent to which a person changes his lifestyle based on random opinions of society, with very little analysis, is astounding here. One can argue that being an alien he may not be having any other option. But given what I have seen in previous Raju Hirani movies, I think alien context is only a means for the director to project his view of man. A man really comfortable in allowing his life to be run by others, unless faced with really threatening consequences. 3. Meeting Jaggu : The actions that convince Jaggu of PK's authenticity and PK of Jaggu's, are not rational actions which one undertakes to achieve one's goals in life. Instead, these actions have altruistic motivations, where each person parts with important values to help a stranger. True, Jaggu had a personal incentive to help PK. But PK was not aware of this incentive, and starts trusting Jaggu because he thinks she helped him selflessly. 4. Convincing Godman and his followers : This part of plot and the next(5.) are by far the most rational components in the story. Here PK applies clever reasoning to demonstrate that religions are inconsistent, and therefore wrong. Here too however, basic existence of God is not questioned, even though it is not perceivable. Instead the irrationality of religion is demonstrated by showing that it is possible for person of one religion to dress as another. And that the rituals of all religions are not same, often contradictory. 5. True motives of Godman : If we look at methodology of PK in this phase, it can also be considered as a rational phase. Here he makes various observations, and mentally integrates various events to form concepts and judgments forming the basis of religion. Judgments like "most people are motivated by fear to pursue religion". Or a judgment involving Godman, concluding that "he is not mistaken but lying". However, as we see in the next phase, he makes no such rational analysis for positive concepts like love. 6. PK Falling in Love : True love, like any natural phenomenon is also causal. It ought to be the objectification of one's deepest values. Mohit Suri movies like Aashiqui 2 (and Ek Villian to lesser extent), are best demonstration of this ordinal nature of love. Ordinal here referring to the measurement of emotion of love. That is, it can be measured by comparing the importance of object of affection to one's most fundamental values. Values like the understanding of music in Aashiqui 2. But in movie PK, love is automatic. And while it may have had some causes here, these are certainly not explored. Except the fact that PK looks at Jaggu dancing and falls for her. 7. Climax and sub-plot : Climax to some extent is good, since it connects plot, the sub-plot, states the theme, and resolves the conflict that created plot. Larger than life setting of a television studio also makes a good show. The let down here apart from the speech corresponding to theme, is the discovery of the cause that moved the sub-plot. In a good literary work, its the choices of main characters that ultimately cause major plot twists, and therefore play an important role in demonstrating the power of value judgments. Instead here, a chance event that has remote possibility in normal circumstances, causes the main twist. CONCLUSION In complete review, I would have also focused on aspects like screenplay, cinematography, costumes, music, sets, sensibilities etc. In short, director's sensibilities amount to making a hero out of a bully, or resentment towards even genuine rules like wearing clothes and applying tone and gestures to words for denoting context. Most other aspects are quite good and play an important role in highlighting critical elements in theme and plot. Overall however, these aspects of movie are not as important as theme and plot. Not if you are a non-technical viewer who needs to derive spiritual fuel from an art work. In complete scheme of things, the movie should be given one cheer for standing up to something as fundamentally mistaken as religion, and for depicting technical aspects of cinema well. But art and cinema need to do much more for promoting reason in order to resurrect man. Specifically, more emphasis should be given to plots that are driven by value judgments. Of course, I would like rational values to move the story, but even irrational values as movers in movies like Rise of Planet of Apes, or partly rational values for movies mentioned will do.
  14. Kira Peikoff's "No Time To Die"

    INTRODUCTION At a time when Freedom is the most discussed subject, and yet least understood. At a time when the need for medical advances is most urgent, and yet the field is most strangled. And at a time when relationships are most fragile, there could not have been a better read. What follows is my review of No Time To Die by Kira Peikoff. THEME What Freedom is, and what it is not? What are the consequences of having and not having freedom? And what are the prerequisites of Freedom? PLOT-THEME Coercive regulations, too much government interference, sensation and propaganda driven mainstream media. How these cultural products slow down and stop progress in medical science? Alternatively, system where researchers, patients, venture capitalists, and their facilitators voluntarily trade. How such system leads to astonishing progress in medical science? Further, it also shows how reason can be used to overcome misunderstanding, or reach certainty in human relationships if people have an overall positive view of themselves and of other men. CHARACTERS 1. Galileo : Very efficient in managing network that works in medical innovations. Network's recruitments and secrecy are pursued very skilfully by him. He is also very understanding and caring of people he values, and acts to help them whenever he thinks its required. He has a troubled past where he has lost his loved ones, and as a result he is conflicted and cautious in his present relationships, especially Romantic. Purposeful action to achieve his long term, medium term, and short term goals being the defining feature of his character. 2. Natalie : Hard working, exceptionally intelligent, and very dedicated to her professional course. Very caring of her son, and of people like Zoe, Galileo, Helen, and others she gets to know and appreciate. Empathy also reflected towards small associations like her professional colleagues, and people she occasionally interacts with. Defining characteristic being her courage to take risks after thinking about pros and cons in relation to her values, that is her work and her son. 3. Les Mahler : A bureaucrat convinced that genetic science will destroy the world, if not controlled by government. This idea leading him to vigorously pursue the network and its leader, and also contemplate killing an innocent child because of her genes. Willing to bend rules when official processes don't yield desired results, and use coercive threats and occasional bribery to get the work done by illegal means. As we later come to see, he has destructive agenda of his own, and will go to any lengths to destroy the things he does not like. At a deeper level we see that he is unwilling to take responsibility for his failures, and rationalizes his failed actions to blame someone else, mostly research scientists. And at deepest level, the hatred and paranoia comes from his inability to get over the bad childhood memories, bullies in particular. Defining feature being his agenda to control scientific research in general, and Galileo's network in particular. Rationalization coming from the belief that he is saving earth's resources from overpopulation, virus called man etc. 4. Zoe : A girl affected by extremely rare genetic mutation, that makes her the target of medical science and political community. A passionate valuer when it comes to caring for her maternal grandfather, or for her own condition. Willing to go to any extent to fix the wrongs they are in. Develops inferiority complex because of the condition her body is in. Is naive in her initial understanding, but willing to learn about her condition in depth, about adolescence in general, genetic science, and the politics and ethics surrounding it. Defining characteristic being her free spirit. Upholding independence of thought, values, and acting even in the face of extreme peril. 5. Granpa – Zoe's maternal grandfather : A very caring person when it comes to handling Zoe emotionally, her actions, and her relationship with parents. Has had very successful careers as athlete and physician. Has read good collection, and applies those learnings along with his experience to help Zoe. His understanding of Zoe's condition, and his willingness to help her in pursuit he thinks is right, being the defining characteristic. 6. Stephen Kincaid – Zoe's father : He comes out as very dominating figure, pushing his own flawed agenda onto his daughter. When things go out of control, and he later loses her, looks like he has realized his mistake. 7. Zoe's mother : She comes out as very noncommittal person, who does not seem to have any deep values. So ends up supporting whatever her husband says, and reacts with shallow emotions when things go wrong. 8. Theo : Son of Natalie whom she loves immensely. Very mature in handling relationships, whether its false news report related to Natalie, or handling tough situations while escaping to Network, or handling Zoe when she develops inner conflict within the campus. He has passion for computers and technology in general. His deep understanding of relationships, and about growing up in general being the defining characteristic. 9. Julian : Physically weak but quite clever. Tactfully handles when questioned by Les and others about his links to the network. PLOT The tight plot full of twists and turns is the strongest aspect of the novel. Galileo and Zoe most times, and Natalie and Les sometimes being the movers of the plot. While the actions of Galileo move in the background, the actions of Zoe and Natalie are most visible in the initial part of the novel. Zoe motivated by the desire to discover and improve her condition, and to contribute to research that can help medical condition of Granpa. Natalie's passion to develop anti-aging techniques so that she can push ahead medical science, and also raising her son well, being the motivations that drive her and the plot. Like John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, Galileo comes into forefront of plot movement as the story progresses. Whether its deft handling of escape to the Network compound, arranging resources for driving research in the network, collecting and applying timely intelligence to secure secrecy of Network, or clarifying Zoe's insecurities. In each of the key moments he emerges as the man of clear thinking, quick and accurate decision making. A man of action, actions that are thought through. While Galileo most times is the prime mover, villain Les Mahler is also the mover. Whether its probing the moles of the Network in Columbia University, trying to track Natalie and kids when they escape, or later investigating the location of Network compound. Being a villain while he is dominantly irrational and brutal, there are elements of cleverness that drive the plot, particularly his blackmailing and occasional incentivizing of a hacker on parole. STYLE Content of the novel primarily belongs to Biotechnology in particular, and medicine in general. Explaining the technical terms and very specific processes of these lesser known fields I think is a major challenge. Use of metaphors like searching lighted weed in an ocean for finding master gene, or chromosomes and genes being like chapters and words of a book are the few examples where complex concepts are explained. Often Zoe is used as an archetype for normal reader being explained to. Also, from time to time Kira makes it a point to reveal motivations of characters for their actions. Whether its value driven actions of positive characters, or rationalization and fear driven actions of negative ones. Occasional impulses of positive characters like Zoe escaping the compound also have valid reasoning. So simplifying technical complexities, and providing motivations along with specific actions of characters forms the core of style elements in novel. SENSIBILITIES So far I have reviewed the major elements of this fiction work – theme, plot theme, characters, plot, and style. Going a step further I would now discuss the writer's “Sense of Life”. That is, what aspects of life and man she considers important. Clearly there is lots of optimism for what science and technology can do, and validly so. Then there is appreciation of how reason can lead to understanding in human relationships, provided there is benevolent view of man, life and existence on both sides. To elaborate on the finer aspects I would compare sensibilities to those in We The Living by Ayn Rand. Compared to We The Living, the hero is clearly much more stronger, almost approaching John Galt of Atlas Shrugged in his thoughts and actions. There is however a minor let down when it comes to heroine's view of Hero. Overall no doubt she revers his intelligence, his actions, and his style derived from these. But that makes conversation in “Chapter 21” even more painful. After cops leave Julian's house leave, Theo makes a really cheap joke. Sometime later Natalie lightly accuses Galileo of not laughing. Given the situation, I think the joke and remark could have been avoided. But at a deeper level, it seems that Kira Peikoff does not yet has a fully integrated view of Hero, especially the single minded persistence needed in the face of mortal danger. So in that sense, attitude of character Kira from We The Living towards Leo was much more reverential and consistent. From the theme perspective, the level of No Time to Die is political like We The Living. Impact of “Totalitarian State” on lives being the theme of latter. In No Time to Die however, the foundations of freedom in reason are explored to a much greater extent. Like the explanation of Galileo as to how Humans can adapt to progress like anti-aging technologies. In We The Living, while ethics of self-interest finds form in various actions, given the dark setup, scope for what reason means is limited. Further, the altruistic and irrational foundations of Les Mahler's coercive and violent actions is also explored in sufficient detail. Another aspect I would like to explore is the view of evil, especially the fuel that drives it. In We The Living, Pavel Syerov is one of the main beneficiary of the Communist revolution. However, he didn't even participate in the main event that toppled the previous political establishment. It was misguided but honest people like Andrei who were the prime movers in that regard. Bottom line being, evil qua evil is impotent and requires “sanction of the good” consistently, to sustain itself. But actions of Les Mahler are fairly independent of good characters. That is, most of the times he can drive his tasks without any support from good characters. He does depend on Cylon the hacker a lot, but no way can he be classified as good. And Galileo, to move on is dependent on rational support of rational elements from the government that here is essentially evil. While John Galt also depended on actions of evil government bureaucrats and politicians in Atlas Shrugged. But he, Frisco, and others depended on irrational elements in the essentially corrupt system. Though overall Les Mahler is a lot inferior to Galileo, but in complete scheme of things, he is not irrational enough. Finally, I would comment on the view of invention in this novel. Natalie clearly spends most of the time, efforts, and risks in building anti-aging technology. But the primary breakthrough actually comes from Nina. So in this sense Nina is actually the main inventor, and Natalie is the one who just takes the invention to its logical conclusion, and gets the final credit. But any invention, and its basic trajectory ought to be the product of single mind. Enright House is Roark's, or Rearden metal belongs to Hank Rearden, no matter how many people are employed to build the final product. Even in real life, Macintosh, iPod, or iPhone are Steve Job's babies, given the history and trajectory of Apple. Seed idea of invention, as slightly hinted in the novel text, cannot and ought not be collective. The idea has to be an individual effort, even though final product requires multiple people. Better approach should have been similar to the way Mark Zuckerberg discovers “Relationship Status” in the movie The Social Network. By getting Eureka moment when one of his friends is discussing relationships of their classmates. To end this section on a personal footnote, one of my favorite line is the one which highlights the contemporary culture that blanks out genuinely heroic(read rational) actions. The line that emphasizes the point comes in Part 1, when twisted news of Natalie trying to exploit Zoe breaks out. It says that in perfectly sensational news stories, there are only victims and villains. CONCLUSION All in all, the plot of No Time to Die is rapidly moving, value driven, has suspense, and is therefore engaging. Characters are motivated, and therefore memorable. Style ties abstractions with corresponding concretes, and is therefore relatable. The theme and plot theme are contemporary and yet universal. This makes it an extremely relevant novel for a reader interested in adding spiritual fuel to his life. Looking forward to next novel in the series for more such fuel.
  15. Onkar Ghate on Atlas Shrugged

    The link is no longer working. On further googling also I could not find the videos. I had listened to them 5-6 years back, and they are excellent. In particular, I am interested in first chapter, where it is demonstrated how the content of the chapter captures the essence of whole novel.