Posted 06 December 2006 - 01:40 PM
Chris, I haven't opined much on DIM to date, but I do have a few thoughts...
I think it is a valuable way of looking at our culture and the many areas in which ideas and ways of thinking affect the development of our culture. I don't know if it is the most fundamental way of doing so, but it seems fruitful to me. The fact that Peikoff has been able to plausibly, often convincingly, apply it across so many areas says a lot about DIM's validity.
I think that the forthcoming book (or at least the lecture course title) is somewhat misnamed. I don't think it's "epistemological mechanics" that shape society. More precisely, it's psycho-epistemological mechanics, i.e., the manner in which one thinks and uses one's mind.
Peikoff in the first lecture discusses three trichotomies. The first is the metaphysical trichotomy: two worlds vs. one world vs. no world. The idealists/spiritualists hold the first, Aristotle/Rand the second, materialists (supposedly) the third. Peikoff gives several examples of this. Second, there is the epistemological trichotomy: intrinsicist, objectivist, subjectivist. Rationalists usually hold the first, Rand the second, empiricists the third.
The third trichotomy, which Peikoff has invented and applied across many areas in his lectures/book, is the Misintegration-Integration-Disintegration trichotomy, how and to what extent one uses logic, causality, etc., in forming one's ideas and policies and doctrines. He actually expands this to not just 3 but 5 categories, however, because he identifies both extreme and moderate versions of M and D. This works nicely, because it allows him to identify intermediate cases in both directions between healthy integration and the failure to integrate properly. There are Ms and Ds who have some respect for and acknowledgement of logic, causality, etc., and they are the Moderate Ms and Moderate Ds.
There has been some uproar over whether Peikoff has correctly applied DIM in evaluating our political system and how much likelihood the extreme Ms (conservative religious fundamentalists) are going to take over and ruin our lives if the Republicans stay in power -- as against the extreme Ds (nihilistic, America-hating or America-castrating leftists). A corollary question is: who is a worse risk to put in power, the moderate Ms (neo-conservatives) or the moderate Ds (or even extreme Ds, egalitarians, multi-culturalists, etc.). This is probably the most obvious area where one has to be very careful in applying an abstract model like DIM to real-world decisions.
The more I look at the world around me, the more I am convinced that Rand was right: it is earlier than we think, and the salvation of America and the world will come not at the ballot box, but from the world of ideas via the universities and those who spread those ideas through speaking and writing. That is why it really scares me and angers me to see those who should be working overtime in getting good fundamental philosophy out into the world instead speaking on Fox News and at major universities, waving nukes around and advocating that we deliberately bomb the civilians and the colleges of countries we don't like.
In brief: I think DIM is brilliant and very valuable, if used with caution and a level head.
P.S. -- As to whether DIM will become, or should be considered, as part of Objectivism, that depends on how strictly or loosely you construe what is Objectivism. (And is that the same as Randianism?) And there is a difference between what should be considered as part of Objectivism and what in fact will be generally accepted as being part of Objectivism. (And who decides?) I don't want to rehash that whole debate (or cluster of debates) here. I'll just tell you my opinion: there will be a power struggle over DIM, and if it (i.e., Peikoff) wins out, then DIM will eventually (not in Peikoff's lifetime) be accepted as part of Objectivism. In other words, I am projecting that the "open model" of Objectivism will eventually win out, mostly likely after both the Peikoff and Binswanger/Kelley generations die off.
However, looking very long range: if Objectivism matters 100 or 1000 years from now, it will not be because of the contributions of any of the current leaders of the Objectivist movement, including DIM and Binswanger's forthcoming book on consciousness and Peikoff's forthcoming book on induction. It will be because someone like Aquinas has come along to write fearlessly, prodigiously, and in a way that integrates those ideas into the culture. I don't see that level of vigor and courage and excellence among living Objectivists. Maybe I'm expecting too much. I'm sure the human race will limp along with or without the mega-intellect I am describing -- unless the Islamo-jihadists blow us all up in the next few years because of ARI's nuke-mongering.
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.