President Obama’s Address to West Point

1.      If you saw President Obama’s Address to West Point now read Ayn Rand’s Address to the graduates. Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand EXCERPTS
Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point New York — March 6, 1974
Most men spend their days struggling to evade three questions, the answers to which underlie man’s every thought, feeling and action, whether h…e is consciously aware of it or not: Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do?
They have never discovered the fact that the trouble comes from the three unanswered questions — and that there is only one science that can answer them: philosophy.
The nature of your actions — and of your ambition — will be different, according to which set of answers you come to accept. These answers are the province of metaphysics — the study of existence as such or, in Aristotle’s words, of “being qua being” — the basic branch of philosophy. The extent of your self-confidence — and of your success — will be different, according to which set of answers you accept. These answers are the province of epistemology, the theory of knowledge, which studies man’s means of cognition.
These two branches are the theoretical foundation of philosophy. The third branch — ethics — may be regarded as its technology. Ethics does not apply to everything that exists, only to man, but it applies to every aspect of man’s life: his character, his actions, his values, his relationship to all of existence. Ethics, or morality, defines a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions — the choices and actions that determine the course of his life.
You might claim — as most people do — that you have never been influenced by philosophy. I will ask you to check that claim. Have you ever thought or said the following? “Don’t be so sure — nobody can be certain of anything.” You got that notion from David Hume (and many, many others), even though you might never have heard of him. Or: “This may be good in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice.” You got that from Plato. Or: “That was a rotten thing to do, but it’s only human, nobody is perfect in this world.” You got that from Augustine. Or: “It may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” You got it from William James. Or: “I couldn’t help it! Nobody can help anything he does.” You got it from Hegel. Or: “I can’t prove it, but I feel that it’s true.” You got it from Kant. Or: “It’s logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality.” You got it from Kant. Or: “It’s evil, because it’s selfish.” You got it from Kant. Have you heard the modern activists say: “Act first, think afterward”? They got it from John Dewey. Some people might answer: “Sure, I’ve said those things at different times, but I don’t have to believe that stuff all of the time. It may have been true yesterday, but it’s not true today.” They got it from Hegel. They might say: “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” They got it from a very little mind, Emerson. They might say: “But can’t one compromise and borrow different ideas from different philosophies according to the expediency of the moment?” They got it from from William James.
Many people, particularly today, claim that man cannot live by logic alone, that there’s the emotional element of his nature to consider, and that they rely on the guidance of their emotions. The joke is on them: man’s values and emotions are determined by his fundamental view of life. The ultimate programmer of his subconscious is philosophy — the science which, according to the emotionalists, is impotent to affect or penetrate the murky mysteries of their feelings.
When men abandon reason, they find not only that their emotions cannot guide them, but that they can experience no emotions save one: terror. If you feel nothing but boredom when reading the virtually unintelligible theories of some philosophers, you have my deepest sympathy. But if you brush them aside, saying: “Why should I study that stuff when I know it’s nonsense?” — you are mistaken. It is nonsense, but you don’t know it — not so long as you go on accepting all their conclusions, all the vicious catch phrases generated by those philosophers. And not so long as you are unable to refute them.
Nothing is given to man automatically, neither knowledge, nor self-confidence, nor inner serenity, nor the right way to use his mind. Every value he needs or wants has to be discovered, learned and acquired — even the proper posture of his body. In this context, I want to say that I have always admired the posture of West Point graduates, a posture that projects man in proud, disciplined control of his body. Well, philosophical training gives man the proper intellectual posture — a proud, disciplined control of his mind. In your own profession, in military science, you know the importance of keeping track of the enemy’s weapons, strategy and tactics — and of being prepared to counter them. The same is true in philosophy: you have to understand the enemy’s ideas and be prepared to refute them, you have to know his basic arguments and be able to blast them.
There is a special reason why you, the future leaders of the United States Army, need to be philosophically armed today. You are the target of a special attack by the Kantian-Hegelian-collectivist establishment that dominates our cultural institutions at present. You are the army of the last semi-free country left on earth, yet you are accused of being a tool of imperialism — and “imperialism” is the name given to the foreign policy of this country, which has never engaged in military conquest and has never profited from the two world wars, which she did not initiate, but entered and won. (It was, incidentally, a foolishly overgenerous policy, which made this country waste her wealth on helping both her allies and her former enemies.) Something called “the military-industrial complex” — which is a myth or worse — is being blamed for all of this country’s troubles. Bloody college hoodlums scream demands that R.O.T.C. units be banned from college campuses. Our defense budget is being attacked, denounced and undercut by people who claim that financial priority should be given to ecological rose gardens and to classes in esthetic self-expression for the residents of the slums.
You are attacked, not for any errors or flaws, but for your virtues. You are denounced, not for any weaknesses, but for your strength and your competence. You are penalized for being the protectors of the United States. Why hatred? Because America is the living refutation of a Kantian universe.
Hatred of the good for being the good, is the hallmark of the twentieth century. This is the enemy you are facing.
A battle of this kind requires special weapons. It has to be fought with a full understanding of your cause, a full confidence in yourself, and the fullest certainty of the moral rightness of both. Only philosophy can provide you with these weapons.
In conclusion, I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you. I can say — not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots — that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world. There is a kind of quiet radiance associated in my mind with the name West Point — because you have preserved the spirit of those original founding principles and you are their symbol. I am speaking of your standards. You have preserved three qualities of character which were typical at the time of America’s birth, but are virtually nonexistent today: earnestness — dedication — a sense of honor. Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.
You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. In my morality, the defense of one’s country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue.
West Point has given America a long line of heroes, known and unknown. You, this year’s graduates, have a glorious tradition to carry on — which I admire profoundly, not because it is a tradition, but because it is glorious. So, in the name of many people who think as I do, I want to say, to all the men of West Point, past, present and future: Thank you.
This excerpt from the text originally given as an address by Ayn Rand at West Point.. http://fare.tunes.org/liberty/library/pwni.html