Rebirth of Reason

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Post 0

Monday, July 31, 2006 - 7:14amSanction this postReply
Cool! Thanks for posting this, Stephen.


Post 1

Monday, July 31, 2006 - 9:47amSanction this postReply
A link to a web site about the book would have been nice, such as Barnes and Noble.

Post 2

Monday, July 31, 2006 - 9:55amSanction this postReply


And it costs $49.95.........

Post 3

Monday, July 31, 2006 - 3:17pmSanction this postReply
See also

Then Athena Said

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Post 4

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 10:59amSanction this postReply


Dr. Touchstone’s book out this year 2006 is four hundred thirty-two pages. Each is a pleasure of sustained informing thought, and each is a pleasure of easy eloquent reading. Then Athena Said is a joy of intelligence and wisdom. It is, to the present, the most important and most innovative critical book addressing Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy.


For the elements of Objectivist ethics the author concludes true, and for the elements she concludes false, we are given arguments and evidence from psychology, economics, and game theory. The erroneous elements in Rand’s moral philosophy are corrected. The result is the Transformation of Objectivist Ethics announced in the book's subtitle.


I hope to review this tome in some detail in future posts to this thread. In the present post, I want to lay out the subheadings of some of the chapters of Then Athena Said to give RoR readers a better initial glimpse of the terrain.


I encourage anyone with a lively interest in Rand’s moral philosophy to get hold of this book and dig in. You can get a discount of 15% if you order the book directly from the website of University Press of America. You are in for fresh thinking on Rand’s ethics, thinking informed, diligent, and deep.



Then Athena Said 


Chapter One:     The Basis for Objectivist Ethics

      The General Species Interpretation

      Principles and Probability


Chapter Two:     Reproductivity

                              Desert Island Ethics


                              A Unilateral Transfer

                              The Productivity of Parenthood—An Economic Perspective

                              Extinction—A Possibility

                              Man Alone—Again

                              Spillover Effects

                              Reproduction—A Separate Category

                              Reproduction—A Cardinal Value?

                              Virtues of Reproduction?


Chapter Three:   Forced Unilateral Transfers and Retaliation in a State of Nature

                              . . . .


Chapter Four:    Decision-Making on a Desert Island

                              Assumption of Scarcity

                              Time Preference

                              Net Productivity—The Rate of Return

                              Standard Income Defined

                              Fisher’s Two Other Cases

                              A Return to Hardtack?

                              Hardtack and the Fundamental Alternative

                              The Hardtack Decision


Chapter Five:    Decision-Making with Two Players

                              . . . .


Chapter Six:     The Primary Social Unit


                              Specialization and the Division of Labor

                              Group versus Group



                              Implications for Decision-Making


Chapter Seven:   Rights: Positive and Negative

                              . . . .


Chapter Eight:   Ownership

                              What is the Source of Property Rights?

                              How is (Original) Property Acquired?

                              Other Views on Land Ownership

                              The Propertyless


                              The Problem of Equal Distribution

                              Rothbard—Acquiring Property

                              Rand—What’s the Use

                              Transformation and Wealth

                              Common Property

                              First Use and Resources that Move

                              Assigning Rights to Fish

                              Rand—On Distribution


Chapter Nine:    Intellectual Property: Unilateral Transfers

                              . . . .


Chapter Ten:     The Social Contract

                              . . . .


Chapter Eleven: Value

                              Utility Theory and Objectivism

                              Values Must Be Discovered

                              Economic Theory of Value and Rand

                              The Consumer in Value Theory

                              Purchase and Affirmation

                              Philosophical versus Market Value


Chapter Twelve:   Productivity and Destiny

                                . . . .


Chapter Thirteen:  Replacement Capital

                                 Unilateral Transfers and Sacrifice

                                 Justification for Receiving Inheritance

                                 Human Capital Replacement


Chapter Fourteen:  The Consumption-Savings Decision

                                  . . . .


Chapter Fifteen:     Ethical Decision-Making

                                  Alternatives, Options, and Outcome


                                  “Choice—Two Mutually Exclusive Alternatives”

                                  Mutually Exclusive Alternatives

                                  Zero-Sum Games

                                  Decision-Making—Probabilities Unknown

                                  Including Prior Probabilities

                                  To Ignore Is Not to Evade

                                  Choosing among Ethical Alternatives

                                  Bayes Theorem

                                  The Fundamental Choice

                                  Alternative versus Outcome

                                  Risking Death


                                  No Calculation Required


Chapter Sixteen:     Charity

                                  . . . .


Chapter Seventeen: Favors, Forgiveness, and Emotions

                                  . . . .

Post 5

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - 10:19amSanction this postReply
"sustained informing thought...we are given arguments and evidence from psychology, economics, and game theory. The erroneous elements in Rand’s moral philosophy are corrected" [Stephen]

At this point these are just somewhat vague claims and we have absolutely no idea what the professor is saying.

For now, just one (or two) clear, and self-contained concretized examples would be helpful. Short and simple, preferably.

Post 6

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - 7:23amSanction this postReply

One Tributary

I still hope to return to discussing this book. Meanwhile, a short review of Then Athena Said

has appeared in The Journal of Libertarian Studies this last spring.

The reviewer is Eren Ozgen, and his review is on pages 285-90.

Post 7

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - 8:35amSanction this postReply
"The erroneous elements in Rand’s moral philosophy are corrected."

Have you read enough, and can you take a little time, to indicate why you believe this is true? Specifically what are those alleged errors?

Post 8

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - 10:11amSanction this postReply

I wrote in #4:
For the elements of Objectivist ethics the author concludes true, and for the elements she concludes false, we are given arguments and evidence from psychology, economics, and game theory. The erroneous elements in Rand’s moral philosophy are corrected. The result is the Transformation of Objectivist Ethics announced in the book's subtitle.
I was reporting the author's undertaking. I did not mean to insinuate that I agree with her identifications of errors and their corrections in Rand's moral philosophy. It will be a while before I can dig into specifics with participants here at RoR, but in the meantime, I hope that you---and Phil too---will order the book and get the substance going on this thread. As I recall, you live somewhere out in the beautiful West, far from big libraries. Nowadays, though, it is so easy to order a book over the internet and have the capitalists deliver it to your door. 

Post 9

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - 10:18amSanction this postReply
Northern Idaho and, thanks to the amazing staff at the local library, I can get just about anything. I do order from Amazon often, as well. Ten cheers for modern distribution methods!

Post 10

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - 11:52amSanction this postReply
As I recall [it's been awhile since read it, which was right after it came out], her contention was that there was not enough reverence given childrearing in terms of the ethics, and that it was even viewed as an altruistic act almost  - so she sought to re-interpret some things to give that selfishness to the rearing...

Post 11

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 - 7:23amSanction this postReply

In a recent study, I wrote: 

Rand thought of human procreation as a possible rational goal for and value of the individual (1968, 55), a right course to be undertaken with the understanding that having children is a major decision affecting the entire course of one’s life (49) and that raising children is rightly seen as an opportunity for achievement, joy, and love (1957, 785, 791). Existence and favorable development is valuable to the resulting recipient. At the same time, the recipient and his or her good development can be valuable to persons who bestowed: parents and guardians, physicians and teachers.


A typical definition of organism would be as Rand used in her treatise on concepts: “an entity possessing the capacities of internally generated action, of growth through metabolism, and of reproduction” (1966–67, 24). Rand took capability for locomotion and consciousness to be the particular distinctive forms for animals of the general capability organisms have for internally generated action (24–25). For human animals, that consciousness would be perceptual and conceptual consciousness. But in taking human consciousness and action to be internally generated, Rand means to say as well that they are self-sustaining and self-generated. Every aspect of being alive—whether action, growth, or reproduction—“involves a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action” (81).


In 1966–67 Rand implied that growth and reproduction involve self-sustaining and self-generated action. That much is correct. It would be incorrect, however, to go further and say that reproduction is a type of self-sustaining, self-generated action in which the self referred to in those terms is a single biological individual throughout the cycle of reproduction. I suggest that human individuals are importantly different from all other types of animal individuals by having the power to bring reproduction under the wing of production. The distinct form of consciousness that is human, conceptual consciousness, which makes survival possible through production, has gained so much power over nature that human reproduction has been carried ever more into a genre of production. For the biological human individual, it is now rightly balanced to define its life as self-sustaining and self-generated action, with reproductive capability entering the concept human life at a level not more basic than productive capability.


Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

———. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Meridian.

———. 1968. Of Living Death. In The Voice of Reason. L. Peikoff, editor. Meridian.

See also Coates (220-21, 223); Enright (231-32); and Kelley. Touchstone responds to Coates in Then Athena Said on pages 13–14, 16; to Enright on pages 14–16, 247; and to Kelley on pages 10, 12–13, 15.


In Chapter 2 of her book, Dr. Touchstone acknowledges that Rand’s three cardinal values (reason, productive purpose, and self-esteem) and their corresponding virtues (rationality, productivity, and pride) are correct for an individual who is alone. They are basic requirements for the life of an individual separated from all people, and they are achievable by such an individual. In addition, Touchstone observes that such an individual must be honest with himself and not fake reality.


But when an individual is in society, procreation can become a primary purpose, one that would not be possible for the individual separated from all others. Beyond that observation, Touchstone argues that human reproduction is sufficiently dissimilar from production to warrant a separate category. For individuals in society, reproduction is correctly a fourth cardinal value alongside the three Rand set out. The corresponding fourth cardinal virtue is nurturance.


In rejecting the subsumption of human reproduction under production, Touchstone emphasizes the ways in which human reproduction is not commercial. I do not think that strand in the weave of her argument is sound. For an individual entirely alone, production is possible, including productions for enjoyment (such as a flute or swing). Setting the individual in society, commercial production becomes possible. But non-commercial productions remain possibilities in society. My folks and we children built our own house, and the purpose was not to sell it. We raised all the vegetables and fruit that we would need for a year. I raised bees for honey. (We sold some, but mostly these foods were for ourselves.) Reproduction can be basically a non-commercial project, and though it is possible only in society (of at least two), its distinction from production is not that reproduction is basically non-commercial.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 7/09, 7:03am)

Post 12

Sunday, November 8 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply


New from Kathleen Touchstone~


Freedom, Eudaemonia, and Risk - An Inquiry into the Ethics of Risk-Taking

(Lexington Books 2020)


From the back cover:

Kathleen Touchstone uses economics, game theory, and probability theory in the arguments assembled herein concerning enduring issues in theory of ethical value and virtue and individual rights. What aspects of human life commend which standard of ethical value? Is one’s moral scale singular or multidimensional if it accords with that standard? Is certainty of mortality under uncertainty of end date required for taking life as a whole as ultimate value? For having meaningful chosen values at all?


Are there reasons answering to life as a whole, as ultimate value, for bringing children about and up? Why follow ethical principles uniformly? What are the relations of civic norms and individual ethical virtue? What makes rightness in inheritance and in charity? Rightness in risking life and limb for moral principle?


Thinkers arrayed and employed in major ways—and often challenged—in this theory of rational ethics: Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, Aristotle, David L. Norton, Douglas Den Uyl, Douglas Rasmussen, Lawrence Becker, David Kelley, and Tibor Machan. Freedom, Eudaemonia, and Risk puts the reader at high risk of light and delight.

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