"You have seen the Atlantis they were seeking, it is here, it exists - but one must enter it naked and alone, with no rags from the falsehoods of centuries, with the purest quality of mind - not an innocent heart, but that which is much rarer: an intransigent mind - as one's only possession and key. You will not enter it until you learn that you do not need to convince or to conquer the world. When you learn it, you will see that through all the years of your struggle, nothing had barred you from Atlantis and there were no chains to hold you, except the chains you were willing to wear." - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
I have always been fond of this quote, because of its break from the traditional idea that one must be innocent and pure to get into paradise. I read the injunction to possess an intransigent mind as one which challenged you to engage in a passionate quest for truth, which was an idea I liked very much. Since intransigent is not a word that gets used much even in books, and because it is not one that I found much use for myself, this view was not challenged until I actually looked intransigent up in the dictionary today when choosing my blog title. The dictionary definition turned out to be:
1. refusing to agree or compromise; uncompromising; inflexible.
Obviously I still liked the idea of the title, or I wouldn't have kept it. But this definition was slightly different from the one I had expected to find, and because of this I became worried that the title might fool people into thinking I was some sort of rock-skulled Neanderthal who never listened to anyone or compromised on anything. Hence this entry, to set the record straight:
2. a person who refuses to agree or compromise, as in politics.
Anyone who knows anything about Ayn Rand will know that she possessed an incredibly intransigent mind. I believe that in Objectivism, she thought she had come up with the philosophical equivalent of the Theory of Everything, and thus didn't have much patience for those who disagreed with her on anything. Not that she couldn't be patient at all; by many accounts she had incredible patience when it came to explaining her ideas. But if you were a part of her inner circle and trying to learn Objectivism, you couldn't disagree with just a part of her philosophy (i.e. believe everything in Objectivism except the part that compels atheism). It had to be all or nothing.
Full agreement with Objectivism might or might not have been what Rand was thinking about when she wrote that passage; I do not know and probably never will (though if I had to guess, I'd say the answer was "yes"). But the way I interpret it is thus. In order to possess an intransigent mind, one must accomplish 4 things: 1) to be relentlessly devoted to the pursuit of truth, which is indeed an objective thing that exists independent of our perception of it, 2) to hold to that truth no matter what pressure is applied to you, 3) to never alter those truths unless you are confronted with a convincing rational argument that those truths are wrong and 4) never to compromise those truths in the name of expediency or emergency.
I do not perfectly accomplish these goals, and I probably never will. However, I think that living up to them as best one can is a fundamental requirement for a claim to morality, if not the actual essence of morality.
So here's to the possession of an intransigent mind. Certainly it will do me far more good than attempting to possess an innocent heart.