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Philosophy: Who Needs It Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1984
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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.
I think some people are intimidated by her staunch rationality, her black and white thinking. Ayn Rand's writing perspective (her voice) is very strong: some folks take it to mean "I am right and you are wrong!" She was a severe rationalist, so people more attuned to their feelings and emotions will have more trouble accepting her ideas; while fellow rationalists will absorb it and relate far more readily.
Here's a free one: she never said to repress emotions. She said they are not good indicators for making choices. Of course if you're deciding what color bridesmaid dresses to get for your wedding, go ahead and think about it with your emotions--I'm sure green does make you FEEL different than brown. However, if you are investing in a company or signing a congressional act into law, for god-sake, don't let it be swayed by the color of the logo or how it makes you feel--it should be an act of the rational mind weighing all the concretes.
If you read this book with the intent of acquiring knowledge, you will not be disappointed. There are not many books I can point to and sincerely say that it "changed my life," but this is one of them.
From denouncing all of the altruist-collectivist philosophers from Plato to Kant and beyond, to describing the values that Objectivism brings to the lives of every rational individual who embraces it, Rand makes bold statement after bold statement and supports her positions with principled, logical, and concise arguments against the irrationalist philosophies and for her rational philosophy of self-interest, Objectivism.
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