The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out


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Today is the official publication date of Leonard Peikoff's book on his Disintegration-Integration-Misintegration Hypothesis.

My copy, pre-ordered from Amazon, arrived on schedule this afternoon. As, I'm sure, many others' have.

Since many discussion threads on Leonard Peikoff, his speeches, and his writings have appeared in the ARI Corner, I figured that this would be a good place for people to post on their initial impressions of the book, and perhaps on various issues that arise during the reading.

Peikoff writes that he spent 7 years on book, revising it at least 12 times, and that he (re)started completely from scratch, instead of working from the lectures he gave in 2004.

Robert Campbell

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I often wonder what Ayn Rand herself would think of this book, if she were able to read it. Taking a wild (but not completely blind) stab at it, here are the ranges of my guess. She would agree with the book, extol its virtues, and regard it as of historic importance: 80 to 85 percent probable. She would agree, but regard the ideas as too obvious and/or insignificant to be worth writing about at length: 10 to 15 percent. She would disagree with the hypothesis and reject the book as invalid: 5 percent.

So I pose the question to the reader: Is this a pioneering epic, a recycling of the obvious, or the maunderings of a mind that has lost it?

I know my answer. (p. xvi)

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When David Harriman's book The Logical Leap appeared, many readers, including me, were surprised not to find any critique of 20th century physics in it.

Looking at the organization of the DIM volume, we can now see what happened.

The blast at relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory is presented in Chapter 6 on Physics (pp. 106-130). And David Harriman is the first person thanked in Peikoff's acknowledgments.

Robert Campbell

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I often wonder what Ayn Rand herself would think of this book, if she were able to read it. Taking a wild (but not completely blind) stab at it, here are the ranges of my guess. She would agree with the book, extol its virtues, and regard it as of historic importance: 80 to 85 percent probable. She would agree, but regard the ideas as too obvious and/or insignificant to be worth writing about at length: 10 to 15 percent. She would disagree with the hypothesis and reject the book as invalid: 5 percent.

So I pose the question to the reader: Is this a pioneering epic, a recycling of the obvious, or the maunderings of a mind that has lost it?

I know my answer. (p. xvi)

Rand would tell Peikoff it needed more work. He would have to revive it until she croaked.

--Brant

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When David Harriman's book The Logical Leap appeared, many readers, including me, were surprised not to find any critique of 20th century physics in it.

Looking at the organization of the DIM volume, we can now see what happened.

The blast at relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory is presented in Chapter 6 on Physics (pp. 106-130). And David Harriman is the first person thanked in Peikoff's acknowledgments.

Robert Campbell

I didn't know LP was a physicist.

--Brant

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I often wonder what Ayn Rand herself would think of this book, if she were able to read it. Taking a wild (but not completely blind) stab at it, here are the ranges of my guess. She would agree with the book, extol its virtues, and regard it as of historic importance: 80 to 85 percent probable. She would agree, but regard the ideas as too obvious and/or insignificant to be worth writing about at length: 10 to 15 percent. She would disagree with the hypothesis and reject the book as invalid: 5 percent.

So I pose the question to the reader: Is this a pioneering epic, a recycling of the obvious, or the maunderings of a mind that has lost it?

I know my answer. (p. xvi)

This passage has just increased my respect for Peikoff, although only ever so slightly. That Peikoff even entertains the possibility that his book is nothing more than "the maunderings of a mind that has lost it" shows that at least he has not totally lost all contact with reality. Regarding his followup statement "I know my answer", perhaps the answer he secretly knows deep down is that he has really lost it.

Martin

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Peikoff's career has been so entirely that of Heir to an Estate. I am wondering, did Rand tell him that he would be her heir, when she was alive?

I am curious because so many of us are heirs to estates, yet most of us know they will be and there will not be any money involved. (eg myself and my co-heirs)

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This passage has just increased my respect for Peikoff, although only ever so slightly.

If anyone criticizes it too strongly the cloven hoof will surely make itself seen.

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Peikoff's career has been so entirely that of Heir to an Estate. I am wondering, did Rand tell him that he would be her heir, when she was alive?

I am curious because so many of us are heirs to estates, yet most of us know they will be and there will not be any money involved. (eg myself and my co-heirs)

Ayn Rand definitely told Leonard Peikoff that he would be the heir to her estate, because first she wrote Alan Blumenthal and Leonard Peikoff into her will, then she wrote Alan Blumenthal out of it.

She does not appear to have told him he would be her "intellectual heir," though Peikoff likes to say that she did.

Robert Campbell

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I didn't know LP was a physicist.

He doesn't need to be. I've heard him say that philosophy has veto power over physics.

Was Lysenko a biologist?

--Brant

He was an agronomist who got in way over his head and was promoted by Stalin, because Lysenko's nonsense fit in with Stalin's view. Stalin was not one to let scientific validity get in the way of his ideology and politics.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I didn't know LP was a physicist.

He doesn't need to be. I've heard him say that philosophy has veto power over physics.

Was Lysenko a biologist?

--Brant

He was an agronomist who got in way over his head and was promoted by Stalin, because Lysenko's nonsense fit in with Stalin's view. Stalin was not one to let scientific validity get in the way of his ideology and politics.

Ba'al Chatzaf

The answer is "No." He was a philosopher pretending to be something else, just like LP is a philosopher pretending to be a physicist.

--Brant

didn't matter if he was a biologist--he might as well have claimed that--or an agronomist--or a chemist--or a physicist, etc.

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The answer is "No." He was a philosopher pretending to be something else, just like LP is a philosopher pretending to be a physicist.

--Brant

didn't matter if he was a biologist--he might as well have claimed that--or an agronomist--or a chemist--or a physicist, etc.

From the wikipedia article on Lysenko:

Lysenko, the son of Denis and Oksana Lysenko, was born to a peasant family in Karlivka, Poltava Oblast,Ukraine and attended the Kiev Agricultural Institute. In 1927, at 29 years of age, working at an agricultural experiment station in Azerbaijan, he embarked on the research that would lead to his 1928 paper onvernalization, which drew wide attention due to its practical consequences for Soviet agriculture.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Well, I'm up to page 100. Will try to get caught up with posting, since I can't do that from home just now.

A quick look at the 4 reviews now up at Amazon (3 adulatory, 1 dismissive) suggests that the reviewers might need to finish reading the book, too :)

Robert Campbell

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A little more DIMming for today...

Much more to follow on Tuesday, when I can access OL and am not in the classroom or the lab.

The "floater" [habitual user of "floating abstractions"] misses reality; the concrete-bound person misses understanding. In the proper use of concepts, by contrast, the mind moves easily and regularly between concrete and abstract, between perception and thought. Only this kind of shuttling gives the man the full power to connect and understand the facts he observes. This type of mind seeks to grasp the One in the Many.3

If integration is the essence of a conceptual consciousness, we would expect every specific form of human cognition to be a form of integration. To check this conclusion, let us travel up the cognitive ladder. (p. 9)

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Integration is not man's only cognitive ability. Indeed, there would be nothing to "put together" if we could not differentiate; we can grasp the One in the Many only if we have the ability to grasp the Many. My point is that the role of differentiation (and other processes) in human cognition is a precondition necessary to create and use man's new faculty of mental compression. Animals can differentiate, in many situations better than men, but they cannot use their differentiations as data for integration. So they remain on the perceptual level. The uniquely human problem in cognition is not grasp differences among objects, but to learn how and when to ignore them, in the sense of abstracting from the objects their similarities. Differentiation is essential to thought, but as such it is not thought. Integration is. (p. 349, n. 3)

I am already sure that this is one of the most important passages in the book.

Peikoff capitalizes One and Many throughout; also, makes contrasting uses of italics and underlines.

Robert Campbell

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No time to quote any more today...

I will say that, whatever the "cognitive verdict" I eventually reach, I find reading this book much less of a chore than reading Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

It's not that Peikoff has entirely cashed in the fire and brimstone. Occasional patches of fulmination may be observed. But I'll take an earnestly flaky book (and parts of DIM surely qualify as flaky) over the kind that seeks to pronounce on "matters of faith and morals" while settling personal scores.

Robert Campbell

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Since Mr. Boydstun is unlikely to participate on this thread, here are links to his two posts on ObjectivismOnline.

Both of them are worth reading.

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=23364entry297059

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=23364entry297072

Robert Campbell

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I will have more to say later, about Leonard Peikoff's handling of Immanuel Kant in this book.

Peikoff's treatment of Kant as one of the "Big Three" (the other two are Plato, for Misintegration, and Aristotle, for Integration) quickly recaps what he said in The Ominous Parallels. Been there, done that; no new reading or thinking seems to have gone into any of it, despite 22 years between the publication of the first book and the commencement of this project.

See also p. 101, where Peikoff repeats an old swipe: "it will come as no surprise that the father of Modernist art is generally recognized to be Kant through the Critique of Judgment, his treatise on art." But no more than half of the Critique of Judgment is about art, and Kant's actual aesthetic theory, in "The Analytic of the Beautiful," has nothing to do with Modernism. No need to refine, correct, or improve anything.

To make Kant the Disintegrator in chief, Peikoff has to postpone the inauguration of "Knowing Skepticism" (another handle for what he calls D1; pp. 53-62; see also pp. 111-114 on positivism in the physical sciences) till the mid-1800s. David Hume can't be the first D1; Auguste Comte takes his place.

Robert Campbell

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To make Kant the Disintegrator in chief, Peikoff has to postpone the inauguration of "Knowing Skepticism"

Does he mention Heraclitus? Is there an index? Is there a reason Disintegration could only have begun after the enlightenment?

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