A Definition of Philosophy

I’ve read a handful of essays by Ayn Rand. There are lots of things she says that I can agree with, and lots she says with which I disagree. When I’m spending a concerted effort studying a certain topic I try to temper any naturally occurring absorbed bias by back-to-back reading diametrically opposing viewpoints. So around the time I was last reading some Ayn Rand I also read The Communist Manifesto. The essences of Capitalism and Communism, hand-in-hand.

But this isn’t an article about Capitalism or Communism, about small government or big government; this is about a few tiny fragments from Ayn Rand’s essay The Chickens’ Homecoming. In it she writes a brilliant definition of philosophy, which I reproduce below. I find it thoroughly nails what, to me, philosophy actually is.

Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, ie. the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology); the standards by which he is to choose his goals and values, in regard to his own life and character (ethics) – and in regard to society (politics); the means of concretizing this view is given to him by esthetics.

…The integration of factual data, the maintenance of a full context, the discovery of principles, the establishment of causal connections and thus the implementation of a long-range vision.

The Chickens’ Homecoming, by Ayn Rand

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