Ayn Rand discusses the role of philosophy in her West Point lecture “Philosophy: Who Needs It.”
Without abstract ideas, she says, you would not be able to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems.
You would be in the position of a newborn infant, to whom every object is a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. The difference between his mental state and yours lies in the number of conceptual integrations your mind has performed. You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles.
Your only choice, she continues, is whether your principles are true or false, rational or irrational, consistent or contradictory. The only way to know which they are is to integrate your principles.
What integrates them? Philosophy. A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.
Philosophy, in Ayn Rand’s view, is the fundamental force shaping every (wo)man and culture.