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William O

Did Ayn Rand say you should create your own philosophy?

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What do you mean by "create" a philosophy?

If the correct philosophy already exists, and one identifies that it is correct, it would be decidedly irrational to set oneself to the task of "creating" a new one.

I think the answer you seek, to the question you almost asked, is tied to the concept of "independence" and in particular the independence of judgment and thought (as opposed to second-handedness).


As worded, the claim is incorrect and any so-called objectivist making such a claim is making an error.

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Not quite.  I don't have a reference, but what various Objectivists have said is that you should do your own philosophical thinking (as you should do all thinking) and live by whatever you conclude.  You should do this even if the result of your thinking is not Objectivism. If you err, the fact that you erred while reasoning leaves open the possibility of discovering your mistake.  If you didn't reason, you have no way to know whether or how your philosophy is wrong.

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This is from the first night of the '76 lecture series:

There are various areas of human endeavor where under certain circumstances it’s practical to accept the advice of an expert, and declare: "he knows best—this is not my field". But you cannot do it in philosophy. And this is so even if you found a certified, completely rational expert. It would be useless, for instance, to turn even to such an expert and say to him, I need a philosophy, you’re an expert, so I’m asking you, should I for instance be selfish? Just tell me, yes or no, so I can act. I haven’t time for discussion and proofs, just give me answer. Now that expert could just say, well that’s easy, just be selfish, and then leave the room, but would that do you any good? After all he told you the truth, but what else would you need?

Now, just in pattern, just to give you a taste of what would be involved, just one example. You’d need to know what selfishness is. That would be very helpful. And how do you apply such a wide abstraction in particular in real life situations? And to be selfish, does that mean do whatever you feel? If so, what do you do if your feelings are irrational and clash with other people, and how do you know what’s rational anyway? And who can say how another man should live? Maybe what’s true for the expert, isn’t true for you. Or is truth objective, or what is truth? What is objectivity? And what’s the use? How do you know if you can achieve your goals in this kind of a world, so is there any point to being selfish, or what kind of world is it anyway? And if everyone was selfish, wouldn’t that mean cut-throat competition, and dog-eat-dog, and child labor? And how do you know the answer to all these questions, by what method of knowledge, etc.

Now that’s just a taste, a sample of the pattern. The point is you need to know it all—the whole system, not on faith. Faith doesn’t work. It’s useless, even if what you have faith in happens to be true. You need to know it all firsthand with objective proof of each point on strictly practical grounds, to make use of it, to function, to live.

In answer to the question: Does one have to create one's own philosophy?, the answer is no.

Without validation, however, it is useless.

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