One of the most interesting aspects of philosophy is just how important it is to the life of an individual. It may be argued that without philosophy, an individual does not have an adequate understanding of the world around them or their place in it.
In “Philosophy: Who Needs It”, Ayn Rand presents three questions that underlie man’s every thought whether they are aware of it or not:
1. Where am I?
2. How do I know it?
3. What should I do?
An example is provided in the Ayn Rand Institute Campus course by the same title, where an individual may answer the questions in the following manner:
1. New York City
2. It’s self evident
3. Although the first two answers seemed obvious, or self-evident, the third is usually a much more difficult question to answer, but the usual answer is “What everybody else does…”
Although the answer to the third question may at first appear sufficient, Rand states that such an answer leads to an underlying lack of confidence, unhappiness, and an inexplicable fear. In fact, these underlying issues result from these questions being unanswered with the ultimate solution being philosophy.
Philosophy: What is it?
Philosophy studies fundamental nature of existence of man and man’s relationship to existence.
When compared to the special sciences (biology, chemistry,and mathematics), philosophy deals with those aspects of the universe which pertain to every thing that exists. In the realm of cognition, the special sciences are the trees, but philosophy is the soil that makes the forest possible.
Earlier in my life as an entrepreneur I couldn’t quite comprehend why an individual with superior credentials or experience would work for someone else. My reasoning was that if someone has the knowledge and experience, why be an employee when you could be an entrepreneur? Since then I have learned that entrepreneurship requires a unique mindset and skills that must be cultivated and which are independent of an individual’s academic credentials or domain experience.
However, it goes much deeper than that. Philosophy is really the soil that cultivates the domain expertise. An individual’s overall philosophy will ultimately determine not only their path and level of success, but their approach in achieving said objectives. In my example, not everyone can be an entrepreneur, because they do not view the world as an entrepreneur, but as an employee, or perhaps even a looter.
Upon further reflection of the importance of philosophy I believe that in essence people who join a group, whether it is a company, religion, cult, etc., really are looking for someone to lead them and tell them what to do. This is very similar to the example given at the beginning of “Philosophy Who Needs It” concerning the astronauts seeking direction after crashing on a remote foreign world. Basically, individuals are trading varying degrees of freedom in exchange for absolution of responsibility for making their own major life decisions and resultant consequences.
Entrepreneurs on the other hand, may seek advice, but in reality they make their own decisions and chart their own course. Actually, philosophy is likely why entrepreneurs hold freedom as most important and usually do not join groups and rebel against direction from others and authority.
Philosophy is usually dismissed as something that is relevant to only thinkers and not relevant to doers. However, I am discovering that philosophy is of greater import than first appears and should not be so easily dismissed. Philosophy is of great importance, especially to those who highly value freedom and the desire to build their own lives.
1. Ayn Rand – Philosophy: Who Needs It:
2. Ayn Rand Institute Campus Course – Philosophy: Who Needs It