Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand
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Dr. Simon Pritchett

Character Analysis

Dr. Pritchett becomes a big player at Patrick Henry University after Dr. Akston leaves, signaling the nose-dive that institution took in the post-Akston era. Dr. Pritchett is the polar opposite of Akston in terms of philosophy. While Akston is a champion of reason and man's heroic potential, Dr. Pritchett is a nihilist. Nihilism is a philosophy that believes in nothing. It says values don't exist, but rather are invented. Life is without meaning, purpose, or value. Here's an example of Dr. Pritchett's beliefs:

"You suffer from the popular delusion of believing that things can be understood. You do not grasp the fact that the universe is a solid contradiction."

"A contradiction of what?" asked the woman.

"Of itself."

"How...how's that?"

"My dear madam, the duty of thinkers is not to explain, but to demonstrate that nothing can be explained."
(1.6.1.46-50)

Dr. Pritchett espouses this sort of philosophy everywhere he goes, from classrooms to parties. He is the symbol of everything that has gone wrong with the country's educational system. His cynical and depressing teachings demoralize young people and inculcate bad values and ideas. Characters like the Wet Nurse are products of the type of thinking that Pritchett teaches.

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