Here is an essay that I wrote for something else entirely. But now that it has served its purpose, I thought sharing it here would be a good idea. Based on and derived from Ayn Rand’s lecture from 1974, of the same name. You can find the original here. And the following is what I wrote:
As human beings exposed daily to vast amounts of information which we must sift through in order to make decisions pertaining to our day-to-day life, the one aspect of existence we often tend to ignore is our essential need for philosophy. Most people will undermine the importance of maintaining any interest in philosophy by wishing to focus on the more ‘concrete’, ‘practical’ problems of existence but that is where their beliefs are flawed.
Ayn Rand argues against the prevalent notion that a person can function successfully in life without philosophy, by reminding us that all our actions are derivatives of a set of principles that we have established. As babies, every stimulus we are exposed to extracts a new response from us, since it is new to us. But with time we tend to collect our various experiences and out of these ‘concrete’ associations we develop a set of ideals and principles which then become our guiding lights for future actions.
Consider this then: how baseless is our assumption that we don’t need to deal with any abstract ideas when all our practical knowledge automatically integrates itself into something that collectively becomes our philosophy for life? And should we allow random influences to give rise to this philosophy or should we prefer to approach it in a systematic fashion by understanding various philosophies and approaching one that lets us live in the most fulfilling manner?
We must remember that our conscious mind leads to the generation of emotions and anyone who lets these emotions overshadow his capacity to make rational decisions is blind to the world. And everything that our mind furnishes is influenced, in turn, by our inner philosophy.
Young minds are easily mouldable but it is also extremely hard to ask them to do their own thinking- after having dismissed philosophy as a useless science, they are gullible enough to seek answers in wrong places. Through the surrender of their individuality and their urge to belong, they are in danger of giving up their moral autonomy to anyone capable of taking advantage, such as the character of Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead.
So before we completely dismiss the importance of philosophy we must understand that our basis for decision-making and action-taking is a result of philosophy itself and if we do not take an active interest in establishing the foundations of this philosophy, it will arise on its own in a haphazard, chaotic fashion. But we will never be able to escape from its influence. So, for the strengthening of our minds as well as for self-protection, the study of philosophy becomes essential.
Ayn Rand says that if all the sciences of the world are trees then philosophy is the soil that holds them together and nurtures them. By asking ourselves: Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do? Philosophy provides us with the most fundamental questions we require when we embark upon any journey; hence it forms the foundations of life.