Most people dismiss philosophy as irrelevant to life, but as Ayn Rand shows in novels like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, living by the correct fundamental ideas is as crucial to human existence as food and water. The articles in this collection explain and develop Rand’s unique view on the role of philosophy in man’s life.
In the titular essay, “Philosophy: Who Needs It,” Rand shows why, in order to deal with concrete, real-life problems, an individual needs some implicit or explicit view of the world, of man’s place in it, and of what goals and values he ought to pursue. The abstract premises an individual holds may be true and consistent, reached by conscientious thought—and the purpose of the science of philosophy is to teach one how to achieve this—or his premises may be a heap of clashing ideas unwittingly absorbed from the culture around him. But either way, she argues, the power of philosophy is inescapable. It is something everyone should be concerned with. How to properly approach and study philosophy is then discussed in “Philosophic Detection” (ch. 2).
Subsequent essays reveal the true power of philosophy, for good or ill, in human affairs. In “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World” (ch. 7), for instance, Ayn Rand discusses how a culture’s political system is the product of its philosophic ideas. She explains why rational ideas lead to freedom—and why periods dominated by religion and other irrational doctrines are periods of statism, of dictatorship, of tyranny.
Her seminal essay “Causality vs. Duty” (ch. 10) explains what mankind’s moral teachings actually do to an individual life by contrasting a person who obeys the “duty” to be selfless with a person who accepts her alternative of rational egoism. For the former, morality is a debilitating impediment to achieving his values; for the latter, morality is a necessary means to attaining his own happiness.
Other essays underscore the power of philosophy by highlighting its influence in such unexpected areas as the mentality and government policies driving U.S. monetary inflation (ch. 12), the appeal of chess in Soviet Russia (ch. 6), and the unnamed premises shaping the Supreme Court’s ominous rulings on obscenity (ch. 15).
If you wonder why Ayn Rand was so passionate about philosophy, this book will help you to understand.
Table of Contents
- Philosophy: Who Needs It
- Philosophical Detection
- The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made
- The Missing Link
- Selfishness Without a Self
- An Open Letter to Boris Spassky
- Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World
- From the Horse’s Mouth
- Kant Versus Sullivan
- Causality Versus Duty
- An Untitled Letter
- Egalitarianism and Inflation
- The Stimulus and the Response
- The Establishing of an Establishment
- Censorship: Local and Express
- Fairness Doctrine for Education
- What Can One Do?
- Don’t Let It Go
(Paperback; 228 pages)