on March 17, 2000
After writing my review for this book, I found that my opinion had already been expressed in a previous review from July, 1999:
"The title essay was originally a speech given at West Point, and one of Miss Rand's own favorite pieces. In it, she eloquently demonstrates the importance of philosophy in man's life... in EVERY man's life. "...the choice we make is not whether to have a philosophy, but which one to have: rational, conscious, and therefore practical; or contradictory, unidentified, and therefore lethal." This book is for those interested in philosophy, as well as for those who aren't.
"As Leonard Peikoff states in the Introduction, "Ayn Rand was not only a novelist and a philosopher; she was also a salesman of philosophy -- the greatest salesman philosophy has ever had." Philosophy's purpose is not to impress people at cocktail parties or to "trick" people in debates with ready-to-wear paradoxes. Philosophy is essential to life -- read this book to discover why. "
However, some assertions proposed in negative reviews should be addressed for prospective readers. The assertion that her "theory of human nature states that men are the product of whatever philosophical convictions they happen to "program" into their minds" is an absolutely inaccurate representation of Rand's theory and needs to be identified as such. Rand's theory, obvious for any reader with an honest desire to understand what she wrote, was that the state of a person's life, including his actions, productivity and overall happiness, result from the beliefs and values that a person holds. As was stated earlier, a person has no choice whether or not to hold a philosophy; the conceptual nature of consciousness allows one no option other than to have beliefs and values. The issue is whether to form your beliefs and values by the method of rational, conscious thought or simply to allow them to arise within your unconscious as the result of arbitrary life experience (meaning: by default). *This* is the reason that philosophy is a practical necessity for every human being and why the answer implicit within the question "who needs it?" is EVERYONE.
An important aspect of life is "relating to other people", but this is in no way fundamental. Social relations fall within the context of politics, the branch of philosophy dealing with interactions between people. Politics is derivative of ethics which is derivative of the fundamental branches of philosophy: epistemology and metaphysics. Underlying fulfilling and happy life of satisfying relationships is the ability to use one's mind properly. All actions an individual takes result from his beliefs and values just as in logic, conclusions follow from premises. Dismissing these fundamental facts as impractical philosophical speculation is both myopic and concrete-bound. An understanding of these issues is the beauty of this book and the rest of Rand's work. Take heed, however. If you have already made up your mind to reject a derivative part of her philosophy, such as laissez faire capitalism or the ethics of one's own life as the standard of value, and are unwilling to question your pre-established beliefs, then you will derive no benefit from this reading.
on September 27, 1996
Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is implicit in her novels, but
she held that the plot of a story was never to be subordinated to
didactic philosophical purposes. Thus, even in *Atlas Shrugged*, the
novel in which her philosophy is most explicit, many details are left
out. After *Atlas* was published, Ayn Rand spent much of the remainder
of her life writing essays that elaborate upon her philosophy and apply
it to current events. *Philosophy: Who Needs It* may be the best
collection of these essays for a curious reader to start with.
The answer to the question implicit in the title is that
*everyone* needs philosophy, that philosophy is an inescapable
part of your life. The real questions are: Is your philosophy an
integrated system that you consciously accept? Or is it a random
assortment of rules of thumb, trite slogans, and things you learned in
church, none of which you ever think to question? In the title essay,
Ayn Rand does not try to sell you on her particular philosophy, but on
the importance of philosophy as such. I recommend this book to anyone
who thinks philosophy is merely of "academic" interest.
on May 12, 2000
This book was an absolute eye-opener for me. I had never before understood the importance of philosophy (any philosophy!) in one's life. I too kind of went into a coma when I heard 'if a tree fell in the woods and no one was there to hear it fall, did it still make a sound' or whatever that line is.
Now, I can confidently answer that question and many more. I had no clue of the importance of metaphysics and epistemology in my life. I never even heard of those words in a rational way before. Rand in several paragraphs (of the first chapter especially) laid out all the key elements of philsophy and why a human living on this earth needs them. She also demonstrated how to ask the critical questions we should all ask of ourselves. Even if you choose not to adopt an Objectivist philosphy, she provides the most valuable questions that one really should ask of everything and everyone.
It sounds totally trite to say something like 'this book changed my life' but it is true. She explained so much -- not so much in 'believe this' but more of 'think about this'. That is an amazing difference.
I for one hate to be told what to do and how to do it. All I ever wanted was the tools to make that determination for myself. In this book, Rand provides those tools. But of course, one must use their own tool -- their mind to make such a determination.
on July 31, 1999
The title essay was originally a speech given at West Point, and one of Miss Rand's own favorite pieces. In it, she eloquently demonstrates the importance of philosophy in man's life... in EVERY man's life. "...the choice we make is not whether to have a philosophy, but which one to have: rational, conscious, and therefore practical; or contradictory, unidentified, and therefore lethal." This book is for those interested in philosophy, as well as for those who aren't.
As Leonard Peikoff states in the Introduction, "Ayn Rand was not only a novelist and a philosopher; she was also a salesman of philosophy -- the greatest salesman philosophy has ever had." Philosophy's purpose is not to impress people at cocktail parties or to "trick" people in debates with ready-to-wear paradoxes. Philosophy is essential to life -- read this book to discover why.
on December 16, 2012
Thanks to Ayn Rand's two books "Philosophy: Who Needs It" and "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," I learned what no other philosophy book had taught me: how to think objectively and logically by making use of irreducible axioms and the hierarchical nature of concepts. Rand armed me with a mighty weapon: philosophical detection. I learned to do what Rand does: carve up unclear thinkers (including big-name professors and intellectuals) by exposing the flaws in their thinking. If you read "Philosophy: Who Needs It," you'll get a taste of Rand's ability to make intellectual mincemeat of her philosophical enemies, such as Immanuel Kant, B.F. Skinner, and John Rawls. And once you understand Objectivist epistemology, you too will be armed and dangerous as a philosopher, able to "slice and dice" the pathetic, intellectually bankrupt university professors who deem Objectivism unworthy of study in the academy.
"Philosophy: Who Needs" It is collection Rand's essays that will provide you with examples of a genius philosopher--Rand, demonstrating the power of philosophy (her philosophy) applied to basic issues such as education, morality, censorship, and inflation. An intelligent, free-thinking individual can only benefit from this lesson in applied Objectivism. If you benefit from "Philosphy: Who Needs It, "then "graduate" to Rand's "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology."
Although Rand wasn't a mystic, and I am--into teaching, practicing, and writing about Tibetan Dzogchen, Hindu Kashmir Shaivism, Christian Hermeticsm,and other yoga philosophies and disciplines--Objectivism provided me with a framework to remove the contradictions in my own thinking relative to these spiritual philosophies. Hence, even if you aren't an atheist like Rand was, you can still benefit greatly from studying Objectivist philosophy.
on December 30, 2014
On the grounds of originality alone, I can recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy. What’s rather bothersome is the unmerited reputation Rand has received from people who have not read; she deserves a fair shake. Giving Ayn Rand a fair shake means reading at the very least a smattering of her essays, such as the ones entailed here. One of the topics she discusses is, most importantly, her position on where professional/academic philosophy has gone. One might be surprised to find that her complaints about academic philosophy are similar to those of other non-professional philosophers, even those of disparate views from those of Rand’s (e.g., Alan Watts and his discussion of professional philosophy being nothing more than playing with words and word analysis, in “The Tao of Philosophy”).
In this collection of essays, Rand explains her metaphysical framework, explains her qualms with Immanuel Kant’s thought, and more. For those wondering what Rand’s reason for her philosophical positions, after having read “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” she gives important discussion and explication of her philosophical views.
One intelligent criticism that can and should be brought to this collection of essays is that Rand does not systematically lay out and exposit her philosophy. To some degree, this is understandable on two fronts: she didn’t intend to produce a system, at least in this text, but to provide helpful essays to supplement her novels; and because she was not trained as a professional philosopher, only up to the undergraduate level, albeit obviously well educated. On this second point, the trade off with Rand’s philosophy is a lack of rigor for the sake of originality.
My general recommendation is as follows: For those who enjoy fiction, just read “Atlas Shrugged” and/or “The Fountainhead.” There’s little denying that “Atlas” is her more popular novel, and it certainly is denser in philosophical content, but “The Fountainhead” is my favorite. For those not wishing to make the commitment to thousands of pages of novel, then I have suggestions on the basis of what one is looking for: if you want the hardcore philosophy, “The Objectivist Epistemology” is the way to go; if you want a less hardcore, general introduction to her philosophy, read this text, “Philosophy: Who Needs It,” and “For the New Intellectual.” Rand’s most potent work, arguably as potent as her book on epistemology, is “The Virtue of Selfishness,” which some philosophers holding diametrically opposed positions have remarked upon its force. Otherwise, I recommend all of Ayn Rand’s texts to anyone want a firm grounding in a philosophy that pertains to the real world, not just the ethereal real of ideas, per se.
on August 26, 1999
Though I enjoy Rand's fiction considerably more than her excessively hyperbolic non-fiction, this is undeniably good stuff. Once you seperate the precise reasoning from the loony exaggerations, you have a terrific introduction to objectivism and philosophy in general. Contrary to previous tirades, some of which have been cut and pasted onto all of her book review areas, this book is full of original ideas (I'd really like to know who else preaches individualism like this, otherwise); it punctures many of today's warped worldviews and is quite readable. Buy this book - everybody owes it to themself to glean wisdom from this flawed but brilliant mind
on June 17, 2006
When discussing philosophy, I know of few better ways to get people worked up than by bringing up the name of Ayn Rand. Rand's personal history and her philosophy of Objectivism rarely fail to stir people's passions, whether in praise or denigration, an impressive feat for a philosopher. (How many people do you know who get worked up over Russell Kirk, for example?) That doesn't mean her philosophy is necessarily any better than that of lesser-known intellectuals, but when one considers the difficulty intellectuals face in getting the public to even discuss philosophy, Rand's success with <u>Atlas Shrugged</u> merits admiration for her ability to get her ideas into the public sphere, regardless of what one may think of her ideas.
<u>Philosophy: Who Needs It</u> is a collection of essays, speeches, and letters written by Rand in the 1960s and 1970s. Rand died before it could be completed, and so it is an anthology rather than a focused work. If the reader is looking for a book that will actually answer the title question, he might be well-advised to look elsewhere, as after the initial essay, Rand moves on to other topics. That initial essay (actually the commencement speech Rand gave to the West Point class of 1974) provides a very good overview of what philosophy is and why it is important to not only have one, but to consciously understand what it is.
The real value of the book, however, is in the later essays in which Rand comments on the state of society and her prescriptions for what should be done about it. As the United States has changed in many ways since the writing of those essays, reading them allows us to examine how well Rand's Objectivism did in assessing the problems of that time. In some areas, she appears quite prescient, while in others it appears that her assessments were not particularly accurate predictors of the future. Reading her views on events that are now part of the recent past are also interesting and entertaining because they remind the reader of many of the problems we did face at that time, and how certain patterns seem to repeat themselves in human history.
The essays are all relatively short, and Rand's prose is cutting and brief, laying out her views crisply and concisely. There are no John Galt-style speeches to be had in the book, a significant virtue as it allows the reader to focus on what Rand is saying rather than getting lost in the details. It is unlikely the book will convince many readers of the truth of Rand's philosophy in itself, but for those seeking more information about Objectivism will find the work a trove of information, as it shows precisely how Rand applied Objectivism to various situations.
If you're looking for simple entertainment, this book is definitely not for you. But if you're looking for examples of practical application of philosophy or just want to learn more about where Rand was coming from, <u>Philosophy: Who Needs It</u> is an excellent reference.
on April 3, 1999
After reading some of the negative comments below by some reviewers, one must question whether they have even read the book.
Rand used the term altruism, in its original meaning (as used by philosopher August Comte who coined the term): self-sacrifice.
To Rand, to sacrifice a greater value (say your beloved child), for the sake of a lessor value (some strangers you did not know) was wrong. (I agree).
To save your beloved wife from drowning would be selfish--because you loved her; to let her die to save some other stranger--when you loved your wife--would be unselfish.
Selfish, as Rand uses the term, means to act in ones own LONG-TERM rational self-interest.
It does not mean that one cannot have friends--only that "friends" who stab you in the back are not really your friends.
In fact, if you think about it: love is selfish. To paraphrase Rand, before one can say 'I love you', one must first learn to say the word 'I'.
Of course, if one actually READ the book, one would know this. If one reads the book, and still holds these distorted views of Rand's work, then one is either stupid, or dishonest.
This does not mean one may still not disagree--there are some things I disagree with Rand on; but, one should not stoop to dishonest smears, name-calling, and outright lies about her work.
on April 17, 1999
Ayn Rand considered the invitation to address the West Point cadets as the greatest honor of her life. She titled her speech "Philosophy who needs it", and those at West Point liked the speech so much that they asked and received permission to use it as chapter one in the West Point Philosophy text book.
It was later, in the early 90s, that I voiced an opinion that studying philosophy was a waste of time, so my army officer brother gave me a copy of this book.
So I read the speech (it's chapter one in this book, too), and it changed my life - impressively so, for the better.
Read the speech, and see for yourself.