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Prometheus98876

"why You Need Philosophy"

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The following is part one of a series of articles I am planning to submit to my university's student magazine. I will assume that the reader of the magazine has no knowledge of Objectivism (which is overall of course a very accurate assumption). My intention is to briefly define philosophy and explain briefly why as students and as people they need philosophy.

Please tell me what you think of this late draft and how I might be able to improve my arguments. Or whatever comments at all you might have.

****** Why you need Philosophy. ******

We deal with this all of the time, multiple days a day in one form or another. What exactly is it? How might we define it?

The Collins dictionary defines it as follows:

“Study of realities and general principles; system of theories on nature or on conduct”.

The Britannica defines is as follows:

“The critical examination of the grounds for fundamental beliefs and an analysis of the basic concepts employed in the expression of such beliefs”.

I define it as follows”:

“The universal science that studies the nature of reality and mankind’s proper relation to it, through abstractions and checking its conclusions using logical proccesses. The study of the nature of the existence: the appropriate behaviour of mankind according to his view of existence. The foundation for all knowledge.

Philosophy comes into many different areas, such as: Aesthetics (the study of the nature of, methods of creation and expression of, and appreciation of beauty) , , Epistemology (the study of the nature of knowledge, how it is acquired and what limits if any apply to human knowledge), Ethics (the study of what is right or wrong, i.e. how man should respond in ones environment, given their view of reality), Metaphysics (the study of the nature of reality) and Politics.

Given the definition of philosophy and that it encompasses so many aspects of our lives; let us look a little further into the importance of philosophy and how it relates to you as a student, and as a human being.

One of the most important things you must deal with as a student is knowledge. That is what you are here at university to acquire after all. To do well at uni. you need to understand some basic principles of Epistemology. That is, how does one go about learning? How does one filter out the stuff you learn in your course that you do not really need to know from the huge amount of information that you are presented with?

Philosophy (Epistemology in particular) deals with the nature of knowledge and learning. It tells you what counts as knowledge (and the difference between belief and knowledge) and how to acquire knowledge.

However, the importance of philosophy goes far beyond that….

The answers to the questions of philosophy tell you what existence is, its elements and how it deal with such elements. The greater your understanding of correct philosophy, the greater your understanding of what is and how you should act. If your philosophies are right you will understand what is and do expect to be able to succeed by your own power. If your philosophies are wrong, then do NOT expect to thrive on your own power.

I will give some examples of this:

Perhaps you believe that money is the root of evil, that money is corrupt, then you damn a necessary tool of survival in a modern society. You damn you means of survival. You damn your life. If you value life you do not damn its means, therefore you do not damn money. Ends do not justify means, nor do means justify ends. The means and ends must both be justified. If you damn something you damn its means as well, and vice versa.

Philosophical failings, with the one above being a possible example, are responsible for many of the problems in our world. The root cause of socialism is a misunderstanding of the concept of rights (part of this confusion is that collective rights do not exist; only individual rights exist.). Of people confusing need and right. Of people confusing whom is responsible for meeting ones needs.

Consider the typical homeless bum on the street. How did they come to be there? Because in their past they did not value their future enough to ensure it did not come to nothing. Instead of learning a profession (even if it was only sweeping streets) that would enable them to acquire money, a necessity for modern life, they chose to value something(s) which would destroy them. Be those things alcohol, other drugs or the desire not to live. In other words, their philosophies were critically flawed.

But you might say, what if his plans were ruined by society? Then whose philosophical failings are evident then? Then the philosophical failings of whom have contributed to the destruction of a life? It is the philosophical failings of society that brings the most harm.

Imagine the injustice if Thomas Edison had invented the light-bulb but no-one had been interested in buying it because they did not value technology. Because they did not value means that would greatly enrich their lives. Because they did not fully value their lives. That they do not should not be hard to see.

Philosophy is critical. It is philosophy that determines ones views and their behaviour. It is philosophical views which determine the good/evil of a person and society. Bad philosophies tend to breed evil and injustice. Good philosophy generally breeds good and justice.

However the realisation of good philosophy is not automatic. It does not come from nothing. It must be acquired by a RATIONAL mind through extensive thought and study. Just as knowledge must have a source, philosophy must also have a source.

You must make certain fundamental choice in your life. Choices such as whether or not to value philosophy. Whether or not you value rationality and right as motive forces of your actions. Only then will you find the correct philosophies. Philosophies determine the path of your life. Use philosophy to live your life well, it is the most precious thing you can have…

Edited by Prometheus98876

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First, I want to congratulate you on picking an ambitious but appropriate subject. The subject is very important. Philosophy needs a champion.

However, I see a number elements in your essay you might want to reconsider. The most important point is your concept of philosophy. It isn't accurate. Philosophy is a science, that is, a systematized body of knowledge. Which kind of science? The universal kind (sui generis). Philosophy is the science that deals with abstractions that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times as the foundations for all other knowledge. That is the scope.

The method of philosophy consists of looking at the world, thinking about it, and using logic to check conclusions. Period. Philosophy does not use specialized methods (such as statistical analysis) or equipment (such as microscopes). It uses the tools that are available to everyone, everywhere, at all times.

So, for example, economics is not part of philosophy. Instead philosophy -- as delineated by Ayn Rand -- has five branches. In hierarchical order, they are: metaphysics (ontology), epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics.

There are other problems. For example, you are mixing a defense of philosophy, as such, with Objectivism, which is one particular philosophy. Evidence of this confusion is your defense of money. One can be an advocate of philosophy without defending money.

In conclusion, though, I want to emphasize my admiration for your clarity of mind in picking the topic you have chosen. It is crucial for Objectivists to defend not only Objectivism, but philosophy itself -- a major task in our pragmatist world.

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Thank you for your various comments.

Firstly, you are right Economics is not actually a branch of philosophy. So I removed that from my definition.

Secondly I have modified the definition to make it more in line with your description of philosophy.

I am not trying to say that you must be an advocate of philosophy to defend money. I am using the case of money as an example of a philosophical failing. I then go on to attempt to analyse it from a philosophical point of view.

Please keep in mind that I am new to Objectivism and still have many of the essays to read. So on occassion I might be a little vague or inaccurate in my descriptions / definitions. Corrections like yours are very welcome :)

Edited by Prometheus98876

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I HIGHLY suggest that you read "The Art of Non-Fiction". It helped me A LOT in my research papers for school. You need not read all of it, however, but it is pretty short. Topics include:

Picking a subject and theme

Evaluating how much of your own philosophy to include

How to develop an outline

How to write a draft

How to edit

The book is GOLD for high school and college students. Your ideas will not be all over the place and you will have a clear and concise paper, which is especially needed when being a lone Objectivist in the midst of a Liberal/Socialist/Communist university intelligentsia.

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Never forget Dwayne that it's not simply about 'reading the essays' as it were. I struggled with this for a long while and at some point may have been considered a "cookie-cutter Objectivist" because of it. You will never be vague or inaccurate in your presentation of philosophy if you validate principles for yourself.

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You should justify the part about philosophy being a science; give a reason why you think this is the case. I wouldnt class it as such and I doubt many others would either.

In the section on epistemology-for-learning-at-university, you should explain what benefits epistemology would bring over a book on learning psychology and study methods.

I dont like your 'money is the root of all evil' example. Dispelling myths on that topic would take a lot more than a single paragraph, and I doubt anyone is going to be convinced by the couple of sentences youve wrote - you just basically assert 'money is good' without argument (and I wouldnt recommend giving arguments, because then the example is likely to take over the whole paper). I'd pick something less controversial instead, which you can do justice to in such a short space.

Edited by Hal

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Does anyone mind if I repost an edited version of this thing which fixes some of the weaknesses of the original? Its abit longer too.

Im asking because if noone wants to read it (not that I think this is all that likely) , then I might as well not bother posting the edited version.

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Here is the current version of the essay. I have to hand this in for consideration into the student magazine very soon, so I dont have much more time to edit it, lets hope this or something very similar gets somewhere. I will have to check that this is not too long, because I think it might be cutting it a tad close.

Anyway, Im sure you will agree that this version is much better:

******* Why you need Philosophy *******

We deal with philosophy all of the time in one form or another, multiple times every day. For instance, every time we form an ethical viewpoint or act on such, we are forming a philosophical (ethical) idea or applying an existing philosophical idea.

What do you think philosophy is? How would you define it?

My Collins dictionary defines it as follows:

“Study of realities and general principles; system of theories on nature or on conduct.”

The Britannica defines it as follows:

“The critical examination of the grounds for fundamental beliefs and an analysis of the basic concepts expressed in such beliefs.”

However, these are poor definitions. I will define it more comprehensively and accurately below:

“The universal, fundamental study upon which all other knowledge is founded; the study of the nature of reality and mans proper relation to it. A field of study carried out through abstractions. It checks its conclusions through a procession of logical analysis.”

In short, it is the study of the nature of existence and the appropriate behaviour of mankind according to his view of existence.

Philosophy is divided into many different areas, each dealing with a number of other sub-categories:

Aesthetics: The study of the nature of, the methods of creation of, the appreciation and expression of beauty.

Epistemology: The study of the nature of knowledge, how it is acquired and how it is managed by the human mind. It also deals with what limits, if any apply to human knowledge

Ethics: The study of what is right or wrong, i.e. how man should respond within his environment given his view of existence.

Metaphysics: the study of the nature of reality.

Politics: the methods or tactics involved in managing a state or government or any other political body.

Given such a definition of philosophy and an overview of some of the questions it commonly addresses, it is evident that philosophy encompasses countless aspects of our daily lives. Let us look further into the importance of philosophy and how it relates to you as a student, and then more generically, as a human being.

The most important thing you deal with as students is knowledge. Well actually it is the most important thing anyone deals with, without certain knowledge such as not to avoid deadly situations, objects or beings, or how to provide the necessities of life, man could not possibly survive in the long term. For instance, if we do not know to avoid running into large fires, to stay submerged in water for too long, we would not stay alive very long. If one does not know how to acquire food, he will soon die of starvation.

Unless I am much mistaken, knowledge is what you are here at university to acquire after all, so it is especially critical that you understand at least some basic epistemological concepts, which I hope to cover in a later essay. But I will give a brief summary of some of the epistemological issues you face:

What is knowledge? How does one go about learning? How does one separate the knowledge that is the most important from the stuff that is less important? Why should you bother to learn in the first place? Is it really important that I learn a bare minimum or as much as I can? How do I identify what is real and what is not? What is it possible to know?

Philosophy (that is Epistemology in particular) deals with the nature of knowledge and learning. It allows you to determine what counts as knowledge. That is; the difference between knowledge and your own or someone else’s beliefs. Also, it deals with how to acquire that knowledge.

However the importance of philosophy goes far beyond basic questions of Epistemology….

The answers to the questions of philosophy give you a concept of the nature of existence, its elements and how to deal with such elements. The greater you’re understanding of correct philosophy, the greater your understanding of reality is likely to be and therefore your knowledge of how you should act in a given context. If your philosophies are right you will correctly understand what is and can rationally expect to be able to succeed on your own ability. If your philosophies are wrong, do not agree with reality; do not expect to be able to thrive on your own power.

Philosophical failings are responsible for many of the problems of the world. Remember, beliefs are founded on ones philosophical beliefs.

For instance, a root cause of socialism is a misunderstanding of the concept of rights. Part of the confusion is that people believe that collective rights exist. They do not exist, only individual rights exist. It is a problem of people confusing need and right. A problem of people confusing whom is responsible for meeting ones needs. Note that society is not responsible for ensuring the survival of an individual, that individual is. Collective rights are a contradiction in terms, because if you exercise a ‘collective right’, you generally end up infringing on the rights of individual rights, and you cannot have the ‘right’ to act in a way that infringes on individual rights.

Consider the homeless bum on the street. How did he come to be there? Because in his past he did not value his future enough to ensure that it did not come to nothing. Instead of learning a profession (even if it was only sweeping streets) that would enable him to acquire money, a necessity for life out of the gutter, he valued something(s) which destroyed him. Be such things, alcohol, drugs, or the desire not to live. Instead of wanting to live life to the fullest, they merely wanted to stay alive as parasites feeding off the handouts of others, or what they scavenge. In other words, his philosophy is critically flawed, he did not choose values consistent with his being a productive member of society, and values are derived from ones philosophy.

But then you might say, what if his best plans were destroyed by society? If that was so, then whose philosophical failings are evident? Whose philosophical failings contributed to the destruction of a life? It is the philosophical failings of a society that brings the greatest harm.

Imagine the injustice of Thomas Edison had invented the light-bulb but no-one had been interested in buying it because they did not value technology. Because they did not value one of the means that would greatly enrich their lives. Ultimately such people do not fully value their lives.

Such a scenario might seem unlikely. However cases of this sort of thing are numerous. New technologies are rejected for no good reason. People fear the unknown, even if the unknown would clearly bring them enormous benefit. They fear it, so they do not wish to think about it, and so are blind to how it might greatly enrich their lives.

Take the Linux operating system, which is a viable alternative to Windows. A lot of computer users flatly reject it without trying it, because it is apparently ‘too difficult’. The fact is though, that if they tried Linux, a lot of these people would be better off. But they fear to try Linux essentially because it is an unknown.

Philosophy is critical and indeed impossible for a being with a volitional consciousness to avoid. Having volitional consciousness basically means that you have the ability to influence your consciousness through choice, and this is the role of philosophy. It allows you to analyse the information you have and hence to shape your consciousness according the conclusions you draw through a series of analysis of that information. No conscious human being can totally avoid this process, no matter how they might try.

It is philosophy that determines ones views and behaviour. It is philosophical views that determine the good/evil of a person and society. Flawed philosophies tend to breed evil and injustice. Good philosophy tends to bring forth good and justice.

However, the realisation of good philosophy is not automatic. It does not come from nothing. It must be acquired by a rational mind through extensive thought and study. Just as you cannot build a robot without an extensive chain of knowledge, you cannot understand correct philosophy without an extensive chain of knowledge.

Just as knowledge must have a source, philosophy must have a source, and that source is of course thought. And without the most basic philosophical foundations, you cannot come to understand the philosophical questions that are critical to your existence as a productive, independent, member of society.

For instance, if you want to be brilliant businessman, you have to be willing to act to protect your rights. But if you do not understand what your rights are, this is clearly going to be rather difficult to say the least!

I am not suggesting that you all go out and get a philosophy major. Only that you think about philosophy rationally and discover the basic principles.

For those whom might be considering studying philosophy at Massey, either extramurally or at Palmerston North sometime in the future, I give you this warning: Do not do it, unless you intend to become a serious philosopher. Unless you really want to know the nature of the philosophical spear stabbing into the heart of rationality and therefore rational philosophy and destroying the minds of today’s youth. The subject matter you will cover, according to what I can discover is flawed. This is the case at universities other than Massey, and is common to universities throughout the world (I would like to be able to think that Massey is an exception, however I will not do so unless someone can convince me of this with facts).

Today’s philosophical papers ask questions such as “Is knowledge possible”, and “is free will possible”. Questions which no truly rational person would need to ask. Questions which the nature of the human mind makes clear: YES to both. There is and should be not debate of such clear facts. Both are possible, but often trivialised by those whom do not wish to properly think.

You must make certain fundamental choices in your life. One of the most fundamental choices is whether or not to value philosophy. Whether or not you value rationality and right as the motive forces of you’re actions and philosophy will allow you to answer this question. Only then will you understand the correct philosophies. By ‘correct’ philosophies, I mean philosophies that are the most compatible with the existence of man according to the true nature of man.

To sum up, your philosophies are a major determinant of the path of your life. Use philosophy to live your life well, enjoy your life as the most precious thing you will ever have, it is your only life you will ever have so don’t squander it!

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I would take socialism and the bum out.

The rest is generally publishable.

Nah, I think they make good examples of what I am talking about, considering the target audience, many of which I feel need clear, 'everyday' examples.

Thanks for reading it though.

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Nah, I think they make good examples of what I am talking about, considering the target audience, many of which I feel need clear, 'everyday' examples.

Thanks for reading it though.

It's your article. :thumbsup:

But this reminds me of a joke:

How many writers do you need to change a light bulb?

-'Change the light bulb? That's the best part!'

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It's your article. :thumbsup:

But this reminds me of a joke:

How many writers do you need to change a light bulb?

-'Change the light bulb? That's the best part!'

Lol...I quite like that one. As you might expect, writing something isnt the hard part, but deciding when to stop changing it and settle is.

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I would lik to post something here that promethus already knows and is related. I will be doing an series of articles on fiction story writing. It will, among other things, cover why fiction story writing needs to take advantage of philosophy the way Terry Goodkind and Ayn Rand do.

(Corrected typo 'Ayn' -sNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd

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I would lik to post something here that promethus already knows and is related. I will be doing an seris of articles on fiction story writing. It will, among other things, cover why fiction story writing needs to take advantage of philosophy the way Terry Goodkind an Ann Rand do.

From what I have heard about it, it sounds good so far. DragonMaci, aka kane, has a reasonable understanding of the Objectivist fundamentals.

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[...] why fiction story writing needs to take advantage of philosophy the way Terry Goodkind and Ayn Rand do.

I don't understand what you are saying. Are you saying that all fiction writers must make their stories contain explicit philosophy? If so, why? If not, then would you elaborate your point?

Edited by BurgessLau

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I don't understand what you are saying. Are you saying that all fiction writers must make their stories contain explicit philosophy? If so, why? If not, then would you elaborate your point?

Well perhaps i put that badly. I meant to say they should not they must. I just think that it is a good idea to do so, that a story is better if it has philosophy than if it has none.

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Well perhaps i put that badly. I meant to say they should not they must. I just think that it is a good idea to do so, that a story is better if it has philosophy than if it has none.

Yes, Kane makes a good point. A story without some sort of attempt to convey an artists value judgements (which is an attempt to express ascepts of ones philosophy) is just meaningless words, and as far as I am concerned a waste of ink.

It is when the writer attempts to convey his judge judgements that it becomes more than just a retelling of [fictional] events, and becomes art.

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I meant to say ["]they should["] not ["]they must.["] I just think that it is a good idea to do so, that a story is better if it has philosophy than if it has none.

[Edits added to make meaning clear.]

I am still not clear on your meaning. I think this is worth pursuing because there are several aspiring fiction writers in the audience.

So, you believe that a fiction writer should make every work of fiction explicitly philosophical. That much is clear to me, from what you have said. What I don't understand is why you think it is "better." One reason explicitly philosophical ("ideational") fiction is better for some readers is because they can learn from it. Another reason that approach is better for some readers is that artistically it is a more difficult and therefore a more admirable work of art.

Still, the word "better" invites a question: Better for whom?

My main purpose in reading fiction is not to learn philosophy, but to -- for a few moments, hours, or days -- live in another world, a world throughly integrated, thoroughly dramatized in breath-taking conflict, and exciting, unlike some parts of daily life are for everyone. Consequently, I usually read popular fiction for the adventure of it, in various forms. I very seldom read "serious" fiction, because most of it is as dull as it is explicitly ideational. There are exceptions: Ayn Rand's writings, obviously, but also, lower on the scale, such works as Heart of Pagan by Andy Bernstein and the Sparrowhawk series by Edward Cline. (The novels of Victor Hugo are superbly written, overall, but I can't stand the endings, so I have stopped reading them.)

In summary, I read fiction to experience a stylized reality that appeals to me. Part of that, for me, is seeing passionate valuers achieve success (even if I don't always agree with their value choices). That is why I often prefer pop-fiction by Robert Parker, Patricia Cornwell (Scarpetta series only), and others such as Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and Louis L'Amour.

So, philosophical fiction isn't always better, for every reader. But yes, if carried off well, it is the highest form of the art.

Edited by BurgessLau

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[Edits added to make meaning clear.]

I am still not clear on your meaning. I think this is worth pursuing because there are several aspiring fiction writers in the audience.

So, you believe that a fiction writer should make every work of fiction explicitly philosophical. That much is clear to me, from what you have said. What I don't understand is why you think it is "better." One reason explicitly philosophical ("ideational") fiction is better for some readers is because they can learn from it. Another reason that approach is better for some readers is that artistically it is a more difficult and therefore a more admirable work of art.

Still, the word "better" invites a question: Better for whom?

My main purpose in reading fiction is not to learn philosophy, but to -- for a few moments, hours, or days -- live in another world, a world throughly integrated, thoroughly dramatized in breath-taking conflict, and exciting, unlike some parts of daily life are for everyone. Consequently, I usually read popular fiction for the adventure of it, in various forms. I very seldom read "serious" fiction, because most of it is as dull as it is explicitly ideational. There are exceptions: Ayn Rand's writings, obviously, but also, lower on the scale, such works as Heart of Pagan by Andy Bernstein and the Sparrowhawk series by Edward Cline. (The novels of Victor Hugo are superbly written, overall, but I can't stand the endings, so I have stopped reading them.)

In summary, I read fiction to experience a stylized reality that appeals to me. Part of that, for me, is seeing passionate valuers achieve success (even if I don't always agree with their value choices). That is why I often prefer pop-fiction by Robert Parker, Patricia Cornwell (Scarpetta series only), and others such as Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and Louis L'Amour.

So, philosophical fiction isn't always better, for every reader. But yes, if carried off well, it is the highest form of the art.

Well I guess we have have different reasons for reading fiction. While I do read fiction these days partially to 'live in another world' for a time, and the more convincing the world the better of course (which is yet another reason I enjoy Terry Goodkinds work so much).

I am no longer interested in reading stories that have nothing to offer but an adventure, they bore me after a while. I like something that might not neccesarily teach me something new (I mean eventually I would find it quite difficult to pick a book if this was a huge factor in the decision making process), makes me think. If I wanted an adventure I would go and play Dungeons and Dragons (but even then alot of philosophical stuff would crop up, at least on my part).

Of course, this means that my selection of books is more limited, but I dont read much fiction anymore anyway, so this is not too much of a probem (I am always looking for more to read though).

Sure it might not be better for every reader, I did not mean to imply that it is or should be, but to me it is...

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[Edits added to make meaning clear.]

I am still not clear on your meaning. I think this is worth pursuing because there are several aspiring fiction writers in the audience.

So, you believe that a fiction writer should make every work of fiction explicitly philosophical. That much is clear to me, from what you have said. What I don't understand is why you think it is "better." One reason explicitly philosophical ("ideational") fiction is better for some readers is because they can learn from it. Another reason that approach is better for some readers is that artistically it is a more difficult and therefore a more admirable work of art.

Still, the word "better" invites a question: Better for whom?

My main purpose in reading fiction is not to learn philosophy, but to -- for a few moments, hours, or days -- live in another world, a world throughly integrated, thoroughly dramatized in breath-taking conflict, and exciting, unlike some parts of daily life are for everyone. Consequently, I usually read popular fiction for the adventure of it, in various forms. I very seldom read "serious" fiction, because most of it is as dull as it is explicitly ideational. There are exceptions: Ayn Rand's writings, obviously, but also, lower on the scale, such works as Heart of Pagan by Andy Bernstein and the Sparrowhawk series by Edward Cline. (The novels of Victor Hugo are superbly written, overall, but I can't stand the endings, so I have stopped reading them.)

In summary, I read fiction to experience a stylized reality that appeals to me. Part of that, for me, is seeing passionate valuers achieve success (even if I don't always agree with their value choices). That is why I often prefer pop-fiction by Robert Parker, Patricia Cornwell (Scarpetta series only), and others such as Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and Louis L'Amour.

So, philosophical fiction isn't always better, for every reader. But yes, if carried off well, it is the highest form of the art.

I don't mean they are better because they teach you things.

Also, did you know that David Eddings and JRR Tolkien have both said that NO author can ecape putting his philoshophy in his books to at least a small degree, at least by accident, which is why they didn't try to avoid doing so and why they deliberately put a little in. So in short every book has at least a little philiosophy of the author in it. The most common accidental method is that the author makes it so that the main character(s) believe as he/she does in at least some areas. Of course this is also a common deliberate way.

Also i also read fiction books so that I can escape to a different world, but I prefer ones that have both philosophy and adventure, which is why terry Goodking is my favourite author. He does the best of both ways in his Sword of Truth books by my opinion.

Also I didn't mean that one way was "best for anyone", only that I believe books are made better by its presence.

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