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The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out Hardcover – 4 Sep 2012

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  • Hardcover: 378 pages
  • Publisher: New American Library (4 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451234812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451234810
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 644,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jorgen Christensen on 11 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think one should start by explaining to new readers, that it takes 64 pages before the reader has gotten the foundation for the DIM hypothesis. But then it takes offe quite stunningly and beautifully, and Peikoff takes one into a tremendous scope of human history. Of philosophy used together with science, education, politics, culture. And how it fits together, and how important it is for the educated and enaged person to think about his use of intellectual tools.

There are many great scientists one sees in a new light, like Einstein and Bohr. The pettiness of modern education and politics, and not just. the bad thinking and actions of totalitarian types.

I studied objectivism in my younger days, but found it too self contained and -congratulating. But here you are taken on a tremendous and heavily documented journee throúgh the thinking of mankind, and its very diverse consequences. At least it made MY life more meaningful. But be warned: it takes some months to consume spiritually, and I am not finished studying this yet. But what VISTAS!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a tool for categorisation, Peikoff's analysis of the different modes of integration is fascinating. It allows us to better understand philosophies and how they develop, as well as why people with those philosophies act how they do. It is truly a joy to begin seeing 'D' and 'M' and 'I' modes in the world around you, and to feel Peikoff's theories being confirmed.

As a tool for explaining the course of history however, I see one large problem with the DIM hypothesis. It is too idealist. The core of Objectivism is mind-body integration, and objectivist theories must focus on the relationship between the mind and external reality. Not only that, but such theories must take into account context, as well as the causative relationships, not only between the mind and reality but between reality and the mind. It is not true that philosophy determines history, not on its own. The scope of human thought is limited by external reality; the content of the human mind is limited by what that mind is capable of perceiving. Thus, any objective theory of history must be able to take into account both casual relationships. The mind is free, but it is not omnipotent; circumstances do affect human thinking and action.

Peikoff's theory of history seems to me the antithesis of the Marxian theory. Where Marx is a materialist (philosophy is just an epiphenomenon, material things determine history), Peikoff leans towards idealism (material circumstances are just a product of human thought, human thought is what really determines history). An objective theory of history must seek to find the third position which reconciles the materialist and idealist visions. Peikoff has not, in my opinion, succeeded in doing this.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AynRandFanUK on 22 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a student of Objectivism for over 20 years, it's a real thrill to have such original and powerful material available beyond Ayn Rand's own work.
In his new book, Dr. Peikoff unveils a potent mental apparatus, enabling for the first time a unified and thoroughly enlightened understanding of Western Man's history and his likely future.

Essentially he builds on Ayn Rand's theory of history, showing not only that philosophy controls men's ideas and actions, but that one aspect of philosophy - mode of integration - is the cardinal choice and factor in their lives. He does this by analysing four periods of history within four areas of human endeavour (science, literature, education and politics) and shows that the products of each era (plays, scientific theories, teaching practices, and policies) exhibit a uniform and inescapable 'mode'. He then draws conclusions about the future based on an analysis of the past's sequences of mode. For example, that the transition from the Roman period to the Dark Ages happened for similar reasons to the transition from the Enlightenment to the Modern Age.

In my opinion, Peikoff's new method unlocks mysteries of human development in as profound a way as Newton's discoveries unlocked mysteries of nature.

For anyone studying Western Philosophy or History, who wants to make overall sense of it, and for anyone concerned by the West's continual intellectual and cultural collapse, this book is a mind-opening instrument and a great motivation.

Just as Ayn Rand untangled the philosophic mess since Kant, making knowledge certain and life possible, so Peikoff untangles standard approaches to history and unlocks the future, changing it from scary chaos, to predictable order. His gift to mankind makes it possible to act confidently with long term vision, and shows how we just might save the West.
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136 of 148 people found the following review helpful
pushing Objectivism forward 10 Sept. 2012
By Tony White - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A former criminal trying to reform goes into a store. As he is waiting to make his purchase a thought floods his mind: "When a customer asks for cigarettes in the middle of ringing up a sale, the cashier completely turns his back on a wide open cash drawer for five to ten seconds at a time." Despite the desire to reform, this former criminals subconscious programming automatically keeps throwing now-unwanted criminal thoughts to his conscious mind, because his moral character is still unreformed.

The theme of The DIM Hypothesis is that just as men have a moral character, so they also have a conceptual character, a learned, automatized approach to using the instrument of their mind. You could also think of conceptual character as "cognitive personality" or "style of thinking".

For example, a man may hear Ayn Rand's principle that "Man's basic means of survival is reason" and his mind will automatically begin to range over such concretes as a doctor learning to perform life-saving surgery, or the invention of agriculture, or the internet, or electric power lines heating a home in the dead of winter, or a computer controlled robotic factory, or internal combustion engines, or the fact that education - the systematic training of the rational faculty - is crucial to human life. His mind will automatically go to real, concrete examples to be integrated under the principle that "Man's basic means of survival is reason." This automatized approach to thought is Integration, the I in DIM.

Another man hearing the exact same principle will have a completely different approach. Hearing that "Man's basic means of survival is reason", his mind will automatically seek to avoid integration; right away his subconscious will throw to his conscious mind such questions as "What about babies? What about the insane? What about taking a rest from study? What about sleep?" His mind will habitually, automatically attempt to tear apart or deny any principle it hears; it will not try to integrate, but to disintegrate. Disintegration is the D in DIM.

Another man hearing the same principle will have still a different approach. Hearing that "Man's basic means of survival is reason", his mind will attempt to process the principle in a realm of pure abstraction, apart from concrete reality: "Man is the rational animal, by definition. As such he must necessarily have two choices: he can survive by means of reason, or by not-reason. Man clearly cannot survive by means of not-reason, that would be absurd, therefore he must survive by means of reason. QED." This mentality is not explicitly destructive - it does not attempt to explicitly disintegrate the principle as the D mentality does - but wants its principles to exist in world of floating abstractions, detached from the actual concrete facts that the principle is supposed to integrate in his mind. Dr. Peikoff calls this Misintegration, the M in DIM.

Within the M and D conceptual characters, Dr. Peikoff has two subdivisions of greater and lesser consistency: D1/D2 and M1/M2. M1 would be a devout churchgoer who nonetheless accepts the theory of evolution based on the evidence; M2 would be a fundamentalist who thinks that the human race literally began six thousand years ago with Adam of the Bible, and that dinosaur fossils were evidence planted by Satan to tempt Man astray. D1 would be progressive education or impressionistic painting; D2 would be deep ecologists who want the human race to wipe itself out or a Jackson Pollock painting.

Ayn Rand was the first to identify the phenomenon of man's conceptual character; she coined the term psycho-epistemology to denote it. In my opinion, what Dr. Peikoff has done in the DIM Hypothesis is to map out the five main categories (I, M1, M2, D1, D2) of psycho-epistemology and then show that the key periods of Western Civilization each reflect one of these categories.

According to the DIM Hypothesis, Ancient Greece - the first Western culture - was I; Rome was M1; the Middle Ages were M2; the Renaissance and its aftermath were M1 moving to I; the Enlightenment (including America's Founding Fathers) were finally back to full I; and modern culture has disintegrated from I to the first D culture in history, with M2, in the form of fundamentalist religion, poised to make a big comeback. Dr. Peikoff argues that D culture is too clearly irrational - too brazen in its lack of answers - for people to accept, so that M2 is rising out of D as a natural, inevitable backlash.

To oversimplify somewhat, Dr. Peikoff argues that modern education has so disintegrated the nations conceptual character, that it has given rise to 1) the destructive nihilism of the sixties, and 2) a people who are now too intellectual disarmed to mount a rational response, and that therefore the people are turning to fundamentalist religion because it is the only bulwark against nihilism that they know.

That's quite a sophisticated point of view, and it requires an active-minded reader to appreciate it. This book is what you would expect to find in a dynamic, serious culture, not this one. Dr. Peikoff is clearly outside today's mainstream, and this book is written only for people who are open to that.

The closest thing I would have to caveat about The Dim Hypothesis would be to say that it is not for beginners. You need to be familiar with Objectivism first. Dr. Peikoff writes in the introduction: "Because of the need to condense, I have not repeated material, on any issue, that Any Rand or I have covered elsewhere - not even when this material is necessary to a proper understanding."

If you are new to Ayn Rand's philosophy, the first three books to start with are always The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Dr. Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels, in that order. Those three books give an overview of the total of the Objectivist world view. An impatient reader who wants to jump directly into the Objectivist view of the history of Western culture would do better to start with The Ominous Parallels; that book is just as profound - and just as sweeping and panoramic - as The DIM Hypothesis, but it is purposefully written to be accessible to a beginner.

My overall evaluation of The DIM Hypothesis is that it is a sublime masterpiece, a superb new Objectivist classic. In mapping out psycho-epistemology for the first time, Dr. Peikoff's DIM distinctions provide a profound, wide-angle insight into human nature and cultural understanding that is new and now indispensable. I find myself reacting to people, events, and cultural phenomenon by automatically subsuming them under the DIM distinctions as a matter of habit. I use the DIM distinctions as often as I use any other trichotomy in philosophy. DIM cannot literally be considered part of Objectivism - Ayn Rand never knew of it - and it is certainly a fresh stream of new thought, but it flows so perfectly into the rest of Objectivism that it feels as if it were always there.
45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Bringing Order to Chaos 16 Sept. 2012
By Kirk Jonathan Barbera - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As I write this, Islamic riots are killing people around the world. Our government's response is, to say the least, lackluster. The policy of extending our hand has failed. A question arises: What led to this failure? Nor is this the first time unanswered questions have assaulted the west with brutal reality.

Eons ago the ancient Greeks attempted to provide many answers to the problems of their era: What are the causes of wars; what is the best way to live; what is the best way to form a society? The Greeks were trying, in their words, to bring order to chaos, to understand a world in which everything seems disconnected and disorderly. In their attempt they created literature, democracy, science, historical analysis, and more. With few exceptions, this rigorous attempt to bring order to our world has ceased.

One such exception is Dr. Leonard Peikoff's new book "The Dim Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West are going out."

He brings order to the most paradoxical and seemingly unconnected concretes spanning the millennia. Is there, for instance, any relationship "between Roman schools and Louix XIV, medieval teleology and the theory of everything [in science], Gertrude Stein and John Rawls, Stoic physics and Stalinist literature, Demosthenes and [Victor] Hugo, Virgil and Einstein, FDR and quantum mechanics"? Each of these examples is what Dr. Peikoff calls a cultural product, whether they are a work of literature (e.g., Victor Hugo's Les Miserables), a scientific school of thought (e.g., quantum mechanics), an education system (e.g., Roman schools), or a political system (e.g., the Greek Polis). In this new work, DIM, we are given a new theory in which to order the world of our past, our present, and project into the future.

This method of bringing order to chaos is all but dead today. What else can be said but that people still have trouble understanding the connection between Communism and Fascism, two theories which baldly decreed man's place in society is subservience? People see nothing but a confused juxtaposition everywhere they look. As Dr. Peikoff puts it: "The American people... do not understand what is today called art. They do not understand what is called science. Their children do not understand what the schools teach. And the politicians, people think, understand nothing. It adds up to a historic popular feeling: Something fundamental has gone wrong with the United States."

The new theory that is put forth in the book provides answers. It brings order. While the book does not provide a detailed analysis about every single issue facing us today, what it gives us is an unprecedented new tool to objectively, and methodically, assess the world of our past and present (thus enabling us to better see in which direction we are headed.)

A cultural product, like the political movement "environmentalism," can be analyzed and understood in a new light with this tool. Questions such as what is the real cause of America's acceptance of this new anti-American movement? Where might this acceptance lead? Is it merely an attack on our pocketbooks, or a much more dangerous weapon? This same analysis can be applied to Obamacare. How has universalized healthcare continued to progress in America, despite its universal failures?

The DIM theory can help us bring order to America's foreign policy and the accruing results. It can help us understand the complete lack of positive values projected by our artists today. It can help us understand the result of our broken education system. It can even help us understand most American's continual acceptance of blasé pseudo-scientific statements (e.g., Global Cooling, Global Warming, Climate Change.)

If you, like me, have felt that there is just "something wrong in the world today," and yet answers elude you; this book is for you. If you look into your future (assuming you have the courage to do so) and see uncertainty in the career you've chosen, blindness about the values you pursue, terror about the inevitable climax of many current institutional endeavors, then this book is for you. If you have a desire to know the world, to bring order to chaos, do not seek salvation at a pew or a bottle, seek it through your reasoning mind.

In this effort, and to help you get the most out of the DIM book I would like to make a few suggestions. As one would not attempt to engage in chemistry experiments without a basis of knowledge, so one should not attempt to use a new tool in philosophy without a firm basis of knowledge. This does not mean an average person cannot teach themselves. You do not need a PhD to acquire knowledge. All one needs is an active mind, and motivation. The active mind is up to you. The motivation is all around you. A basic understanding of philosophy is helpful. A start on your journey could be Ayn Rand's Philosophy: Who Needs It, which gives one the fuel to investigate other philosophies.

The DIM book does presuppose Objectivism. Thus, to get the most out of the book, I would recommend at minimum studying: Rand's Atlas Shrugged, to get a vision of Objectivism as a whole and in practical implementation; Rand's theoretical work in concept-formation, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Expanded Second Edition; Then the systematic presentation of Rand's philosophy by Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand; lastly, Dr. Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels: A Brilliant Study of America Today - and the 'ominous parallels' with the chaos of pre-Hitler Germany, to help gain a view of an earlier (and still relevant) cultural analysis, in order to gain a view of the field as such.

This is a tall order. But nothing less than all out intellectual war against the deluge of irrational and chaotic powers possessing our cultural elites can give mankind the victory it deserves.

Dr. Peikoff's book gives us the tools necessary to fix a broken culture. From the soil of Rand's philosophy Peikoff plants something new--the seed of a new theoretical understanding of man's fundamental nature. We are now all living in a new world, one given light by a great visionary.

In the preface Dr. Peikoff poses a question to his readers: "Is [DIM] a pioneering epic, a recycling of the obvious, or the maunderings of a mind that has lost it?

I know my answer."

And I know mine.

Do you?
92 of 114 people found the following review helpful
Breaking new ground 5 Sept. 2012
By Michael Richard Brown - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ayn Rand's longest-tenured and most deeply devoted student, Leonard Peikoff breaks into entirely untrodden ground in this, his life's masterwork. There is an ease in his introductory walk-through the philosophy of Objectivism's theory of concepts and their relationship to human survival and thriving that is distinctive in the literature of this most distinct (and newly controversial) philosophy. That groundwork is extended through unexpected connections and insights in a contrapuntal fashion throughout. Dr. Peikoff sounds telling warnings against the Scyllae and Charybdii of the modern and post-modern fallacies of thought: misintegration, and disintegration.

An intriguing theory and one that will not only be debated, but may - and should - prompt a new way of looking at history and the influence of ideas in historical development.

This reader was reminded of the words of Dionysius of Helicarnassus: "History is philosophy, teaching by examples."

For those who mistake Objectivism for arrogance, the striking modesties of the author's Introduction - they were almost too much - will provide food for thought, if not reconsideration.

53 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Dr. Peikoff at his best! 5 Sept. 2012
By Angel Muñoz - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me tell you that I cannot put this book down. It is very interesting, thought provoking, and very very very well written. There is a fantastic summary chart of his analysis at the end of the book that makes things a lot easier and clearer. The writing is very clear and simple, this is really helpful because the content by its nature is very heavy -- it takes time and effort ... but it is worth it! This book, I believe, presupposes familiarity with Objectivism and philosophy in general..... however .... if you are new to the field, I don't want to discourage you to read it, you may just have to spend more time looking for additional discussions and materials (worth it!). Dr. Peikoff mentioned that this book is to him what Atlas Shrugged was to Ayn Rand: I COULD NOT AGREE MORE. Dr. Peikoff asks the reader a question: "Is this a pioneering epic, a recycling of the obvious, or the maunderings of a mind that has lost it? " My answer to that question is: A pioneering epic for sure! and this is an understatement. I am very pleased to see his final work and I must say it was worth the many years of waiting.

In other words: GET YOUR COPY NOW AND START READING! reward yourself with a well written rational work in this sea of irrationality, it is refreshing and it may just save us!

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A thought-provoking tour de force 19 Oct. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Long time Objectivist Leonard Peikoff does something very interesting in this book: He takes Objectivism to the next level. By this I mean he assumes an Objectivist context (Objectivism being the philosophy of Ayn Rand as detail in novels such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, as well as non-fiction works such as The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and the The Romantic Manifesto) and after selectively reviewing crucial parts of Western philosophy induces a new method of cultural analysis. This method ultimately allows him not only to understand cultural products such as science, literature, politics, and education throughout history in terms of the modes he defines but also apparently predict an overall culture's direction.

Peikoff is a very unpretentious, careful and clear writer. You will not find in this book any assertions -- he is not asking you to take anything on faith. Instead there is clear exposition along with a consistent understanding of both the theory's and the writer's limitations. The essence of his idea are the three attitudes to integration: An Aristotelian, reality-based approach that integrates the facts in a given field into higher level conceptual products is Integration or "I". The Platonic approach denies the facts or concretes in favor of ideals (supernatural or secular) but either way not of this world, and is termed Misintegration or "M". Finally, the Kantian approach which denies all ideal or conceptual knowledge, termed Disintegration or "D". Thus the three modes form the acronym DIM.

Peikoff's takes the reader through the essentials of his hypothesis which he derives from the epistemology of the three major philosophers. He then traverses both modern and ancient Western History describing the periods and cultural products in uncontroversial terms using mainstream sources only to discover that each cultural product clearly easily falls into the categories he had previously described.

The final cashing-in comes at the end when Peikoff, based on his ideas and the recent cultural progression makes a prediction as to the future of the West. Again, Peikoff is not pretending to be Nostradamus here. The prediction is fairly specific and Peikoff insists that if it does not come true within about 50 years then there would be something wrong with his ideas.

I found the book difficult to put down. Highly recommended!
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