Philosophy: Who Needs It

This course will answer the following questions.

  • What is philosophy?
  • Why and how is it relevant to my life?

This is the topic that Ayn Rand takes up in her address to the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1974. Rand challenges the idea that philosophy belongs only in the ivory tower. Instead she argues that, whether we realize it or not, we all hold and act on philosophic ideas and that philosophy is a crucial, practical need of human life.

This course is an adaptation of Rand’s 1974 speech (later reprinted in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It). Come hear Rand enlighten and entertain the West Point cadets (laughter can be heard at various points in the audio) and discuss the life-and-death importance of the subject of philosophy.

This course is a great starting point for those new to philosophy and to Rand’s ideas.


Course video available on your mobile devices and tablets.

Note that user interactions are not accessible on mobile devices. So watching courses on your smart phone or tablet is possible – but you won’t get the full experience and some check marks will remain unchecked until completed on a personal computer.

Philosophy: Who Needs It

Course Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. A Short Story
  2. The Science of Philosophy
    1. Three Inescapable Questions
    2. Philosophy’s Five Branches
    3. Philosophy’s Influence
    4. Philosophy’s Inescapability
    5. Your Only Choice: Program Your Own Mind or Leave its Programming to Chance
    6. Why Should I Study Philosophy?
    7. Why the Future Leaders of the U.S. Army Need to be Philosophically Armed
  3. Conclusion
    1. A Personal Message to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

. . . for Those Familiar with Ayn Rand's Writings

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff
Dr. Peikoff’s systematic presentation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, based on a course that he taught under Ayn Rand’s guidance. Required reading for anyone seeking an understanding of Rand’s thought.

. . . by Ayn Rand

For the New Intellectual
A collection of philosophical speeches excerpted from Ayn Rand’s four famous works of fiction: We the Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, together with the following title essay:

“For the New Intellectual” in For the New Intellectual
An extensive survey of the role philosophy has played throughout the history of Western civilization. A must-read for those interested in the impact of ideas on human history.

“Philosophy: Who Needs It” in Philosophy: Who Needs It
The essay version of this talk; it is well worth reading slowly and carefully even after listening to this course.

“Philosophical Detection” in Philosophy: Who Needs It
This is an essay where Ayn Rand discusses how you must approach evaluating the truthfulness of ideas as akin to how a detective investigates facts. It is worth reading to gain Ayn Rand’s advice on a vital aspect of thinking.

“The Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness
An essay based on her 1961 lecture providing a detailed overview of Ayn Rand’s ethics of rational egoism. Crucial reading for understanding why Rand views ethics to be as objective as a physical science.