Friday, November 10, 2006

Get Your DIM On

Peikoff's lecture series outlining his DIM hypothesis is available on line at the ARI. It's free - all you need to do is register.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer

There are 15 sections, each in two parts, and each part seems to be about 45mins to an hour or more long. So anyone who's got a mere 20-30 hours to spare can, apparently, get the vital philosophic context that is necessary to understand Peikoff's recent nutso remarks.

The ARCHN site's team of trained analysts will of course be sparing no effort to parse Dr P's utterances whilst doing the dishes, folding the washing etc for the next 6 months...;-)

30 comments:

Neil Parille said...

I think I'll wait until the book version comes out (around 2009 according to LP's web-site).

I'm already starting to fret about the 2010 elections, so maybe reading the book in 2009 will cure me of whatever rationalism I have.

Dragonfly said...

Well, at first I really couldn't see why I should waste my time on listening to Peikoff's ramblings, but I got curious when I read on the Solo forum the following passage, written by someone who had listened to Peikoff's lectures:

"But epistemologically Einstein is still a rationalist and his rationalism affected much of his science such as his mistaken approach to gravity (and Peikoff invited David Harriman to discuss this). So Peikoff concludes that Einstein contributed in his own way to the distortions of modern science by weakening a rational approach to induction."

Wow! Einstein's mistaken approach to gravity! That'll teach all those dumb physicists who still think that Einstein's general theory of relativity is a highly successful theory of gravity that so far has been confirmed by all the experimental evidence. No, Objectivism, personified in the genius of Doctor Peikoff, shows us that Einstein was wrong about gravity! Even worse: Einstein was an M1! Now I'm not quite sure what that means, but I get the definite impression that it's not good.

So you'll understand that I couldn't wait to hear those revolutionary scientific insights of Doctor Peikoff, that will shake the foundations of modern physics. But, alas, when I tried to listen to the lectures, all I got was silence, no matter what option (RealPlayer, Windows Media Player) I chose. So perhaps someone can give me a hint how to get some sound, or, if that doesn't work, can someone reproduce the juiciest passages for me? I'm dying to hear them!

Daniel Barnes said...

Dragonfly:
>No, Objectivism, personified in the genius of Doctor Peikoff, shows us that Einstein was wrong about gravity! Even worse: Einstein was an M1!

Teh DIM Trichotomy:

Disintegration/Integration/Misintegration

Organise as follows: Stuff you hate=D/Stuff you hate less=M/Objectivism=I

All human thought and action is now explained. Einstein is Misintegrated as he did not understand that all things are, in fact, self-caused. If only Ayn Rand had been there to explain this to him!

>So perhaps someone can give me a hint how to get some sound, or, if that doesn't work, can someone reproduce the juiciest passages for me?

The crack ARCHN analytic team has now listened to the first hour and will report fully soon. Only 20-30 left to go!

Neil Parille said...

Books devoted to finding patterns of history, even when done by competent historians (such as Toynbee) have the tendecy to look forced and artificial. And Peikoff's previous attempt at this(The Ominous Parallels) was a flop. While I haven't listened to the DIM series yet, I'm not expecting anything great.

Dragonfly said...

Reading the discussions about Peikoff's DIM theory on Objectivist forums I get the impression of a typical pseudo-science. On the one hand it's all very vague, I still have to see any clear definitions and proofs, on the other hand an impression of exactness is created by using terms like M1, D2, and similar quasi-mathematical symbols, as if these are things that can be objectively defined, while I have a strong suspicion that they just represent arbitrary statements and rationalizations by Peikoff. It reminds me of what Feynman called "cargo cult science", a lot of verbiage that superficially looks scientific, but that in fact is meaningless. That way Peikoff can for example "prove" that Objectivists should vote Democratic, and his acolytes swallow it hook, line and sinker.

In 2002 someone wrote on the Branden forum: "...I went to Ford Hall Forum last year. Peikoff was discussing the book he is working on. As I remember, someone asked if he thought the Big Bang theory was incorrect, and Peikoff said he did, but that he was still studying physics so he can refute it." Well, if that isn't a beautiful example of rationalizing...

So Peikoff tells us that Einstein's approach to gravity was mistaken, that the big bang theory is incorrect (ok, he can't prove it yet, but that's a mere detail, he just has to study physics and then he'll prove it!) and that someone who doesn't vote Democratic is immoral and doesn't understand Objectivism. How can anyone take him and the philosophy that he represents seriously? I have a very DIM view of them...

Dragonfly said...

I just read on Solo the following: '"Nor has there been any validation, inductive or otherwise, of the Big Bang." Peikoff, Session 6 Part II at the 20 minute mark.' and "He then goes on to quote David Harriman as stating a number of pieces of evidence tending to throw doubt on the theory, and that allegedly demonstrate its, and its adherents, 'religious' character."

It's amazing to see how Objectivism has lost contact with reality. Or at least Peikoff has, so if any serious Objectivist reads this, I advise him or her to forcefully repudiate the Doctor as spokesman for Objectivism as someone who makes the movement completely ridiculous with his amateur science. Objectivism can only become the laughingstock of scientists if it indulges in such quackery. Not that Rand herself is blameless in that regard, but Peikoff is much worse, he destroys any credibility that still might have been left.

I'm looking forward to other delicious morsels of Doctor Peikoff's wisdom that the crack ARCHN analytic can uncover. These lectures must be a goldmine, too bad that I can't hear them myself!

Daniel Barnes said...

Crack Analytic ARCHN Team Report on DIM Lecture 1, Part 1:

ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......

Daniel Barnes said...

Dragonfly:
>I'm looking forward to other delicious morsels of Doctor Peikoff's wisdom that the crack ARCHN analytic can uncover.

As an ARCHN Objectivist Science Exclusive, we have uncovered rare footage of an early Leonard Peikoff lecture explaining his theory of genetic origin of horses. Note that David Harriman is there too as his assistant.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=qTWl7Ypx6SE

Neil Parille said...

I've listened to the first 2 lectures (4 segements). Peikoff is a good lecturer, or at least persuasive in his manner of presentation.

He uses a technique that someone in a different context called "seizing the rhetorical middle." He presents two opposing positions both carciatured beyond belief and then presents his option as the only sensible approach.

Dragonfly said...

Yesterday I finally succeeded in listening to one of Peikoff's lectures (with the aid of a newly downloaded program, alas, today it no longer works, so I can't continue my listening. Those !@#$%^! computers!!). I don't know how representative this lecture (session 6, part 2) is for the whole of the lectures, but based on what I heard, I can't understand how anyone can be enthusiastic about his presentation (never mind the content). Rambling, hesitating and stammering, then again croaking loudly like a green frog: CrrOAtionalism! CrrOAtionalism! Due to the poor sound quality I couldn't understand him always (in contrast, Harriman, who also participated in that lecture, spoke very audibly).

Harriman seems to have a degree in physics, but I wonder where he got it, he sounded more like an amateur scientist who has read a few popular books about physics than someone with real knowledge in that field. When someone in the audience asked him about chaos theory, his reaction was that those people "have given up causality!", apparently not knowing that chaos theory is a perfectly deterministic, causal theory. He also must have been sleeping when they taught him Quantum mechanics, as he asserted that QM states that the same particle can be at two different locations. Perhaps he should read about the double-slit experiment in a serious book and not in some bad popular text. His diagnostic powers equal those of Peikoff: when someone asked what he thought of Feynman, his immediate diagnosis was: D1!

As I'd already mentioned in an earlier reaction, Peikoff and Harriman attacked Einstein's general theory of relativity. It reduces everything to mathematics! shouts Peikoff, curved space-time has no physical content! Hmm... does Newton's gravitation theory of an invisible, immediate action at a distance really have more physical content than Einstein's curved space-time? Well, in the near future we'll probably see the Harriman-Peikoff theory of gravity which no doubt can explain astronomical data much better than uncle Albert's unphysical theory.

According to Peikoff the Big Bang theory is a religious theory, after all the man who originally proposed that theory wasn't only a scientist, but also a priest! QED! Peikoff also railed against the notion of dark matter. In his opinion this was just a stop-gap to remedy a problem in the big bang theory. Obviously he's never heard of the overwhelming independent evidence for the existence of dark matter, which apparently is also unknown to the "expert" Harriman.

These are only a few points I could note during my listening to the lecture. Peikoff's method mainly consists of reciting some selected quotes, even from a daily newspaper(!) as evidence for the corruption of modern physics. The performance of the Laurel and Hardy of Objectivist Science must be a thorn in the flesh of the ARI-an Travis Norsen, who in spite of having some strange notions seems to be a competent physicist, in contrast to this duo. There must be a big tension within ARI between these two factions. I wonder when these will lead to an eruption...

Neil Parile said...

I've listened to the first four sessions.

I notice that when Peikoff likes someone, he downplays his religion. For example, he exaggerates the secularism of the Greeks and says that Thales "rejected the gods." However, Thales says that the "world is full of the gods" (although it isn't entirely clear what he meant). He also says that Descartes wasn't religous, which ignores the clear evidence of his piety.

Conversely, in the case of Kant he exaggerates his religion. Kant wasn't religious in any traditional sense.

Dragonfly said...

I finally solved my computer problem, so now I could start to listen to lecture 1 (parts 1 and 2). I concur with Daniel's comment: this is indeed very soporific. Nearly an hour and a half is filled with material that also could have been presented in 15 minutes. But Peikoff relentlessly hammers on about the same points, continuously speaking in CAPITALS, to EMPHASIZE the IMPORTANCE of WHAT he has to SAY. This soon becomes very tiring, and after a while I really found it difficult to keep my eyes open.

Maybe this is a good method to hypnotize your public, and perhaps it does explain ARI's tactic of mainly using recordings of lectures to deliver the message, instead of printed text. When you'd read the text of this lecture, you can much easier stop, look back, compare passages and say "now wait a moment...", but now you're far too easily overwhelmed, which might explain the enthusiastic reactions about Peikoff's lectures, an enthusiasm which I (admittedly based on only 2 lectures so far) can't share at all.

But even while I found it difficult to keep my attention focused on the lecture, I wasn't so far gone that I couldn't detect some strange notions in it. For example, when he is talking about his 2-1-0 scheme and uses "determinism" as an example, he begins with the notion of religious determinism, where your fate is determined by God or some other supernatural entity, so that would be an example of a belief in two worlds, the physical world and a supernatural world. So far, so good. But then Peikoff tries to pull a fast one, by suggesting that this is also the case for modern versions of determinism (exemplified in but not limited to behaviorism). Peikoff: "This is essentially an idea dependent on 2 dimensions". Really? I suppose his "2 dimensions" stand for "2 worlds", as it is his argument to put "determinism" in the category "2 worlds". But where is the second world in modern determinism? The notion is fully compatible with one single, physical world, and in most cases it also will be used in models and theories that are based on one single world. How many people will have caught Peikoff here in the act (apart from the Crack Analytic ARCHN Team of course)? If the facts don't fit his theory, Doctor Leonard Procrustes will make them fit.

Another weird point in his lecture is that he puts materialists (who according to him "deny the existence of consciousness") in the "zero worlds" category. A materialist who thinks there is no real world? That looks like an oxymoron to me. But perhaps Peikoff has his own definition of materialism, to make it fit into his trichotomy scheme? How many people will have swallowed this one without blinking?

Ok, I'm now going to listen to lecture 2, I'll keep you informed...

Dragonfly said...

Neil: "I notice that when Peikoff likes someone, he downplays his religion."

Oh yes, you can see that also in his treatment of physics. He carefully selects some rather mystical sounding statements by a modern physicist, suggesting that this is typical for modern physics, but he is completely silent about the religious and alchemistic writings of his great hero Newton, because these would only diminish Newton's stature. I remember this selective quoting technique also from his The Ominous Parallels to "prove" his thesis therein. It's so transparant!

Neil Parille said...

As one example, in Ominous Parallels, Peikoff has a sneering comment about Cassirer. Yet Cassirer (who was Jewish) left Germany after the Nazis took over saying that "if justice is what the Fuehrer says it is, there is no hope." I believe he was a classical liberal as well.

Now it's possible that Peikoff's interpretation could be true, but at least he should be honest with his readers by disclosing that most of the people he doesn't like weren't Nazis.

It seems clear to me based on listening to the lectures that Peikoff doesn't have to worry about his listeners reading the primary sources (or even good secondary sources).

Dragonfly said...

It seems someone did not swallow Peikoff's categorization of materialism as "0" in lecture 1, as Peikoff admitted in lecture 2 that he had made an error, very probably while someone had pointed out to him how illogical this was. He now promoted it to category "2"!

The only other memorable point in this lecture was Rand's statement about piles of dirt and mountains. According to Rand a pile of dirt is no whole, but a mountain is. The reason? You can't climb a pile of dirt, but you can climb a mountain! Well, I think that in many instances it is in fact much easier to climb a pile of dirt than to climb a mountain, so that doesn't seem to me to be a very good argument.

Daniel Barnes said...

Dragonfly:
>According to Rand a pile of dirt is no whole, but a mountain is. The reason? You can't climb a pile of dirt, but you can climb a mountain!

I've been a bit busy to get into the Peikoff lectures as much as I'd like. But the arguments are all about as good as this.

Neil wrote something about capturing the 'rhetorical middle'. This seems to be what it's all about. Let's be fair to Lenny - we all agree that subjectivism and idealism, and on the other hand materialism and strict determinism are philosophic problems. We would all probably prefer to have good answers to the problems they pose. We would probably also like to have an epistemology that could provide a reassuring sense of certainty, and justify our atavistic desire for the above by logically sound means.

So to that extent I agree with the basic direction of Lenny's bombastic assessments. And I wait with baited breath to hear how Rand solved these problems - what her arguments were, how say in her epistemology deductive logic is supposed to relate to empirical events (sense-observations) to give us infallibly certain conceptual abstractions (ie: justified true knowledge) in way that avoids the traditional problems of conceptualism, the problem of induction etc. Waiting, waiting. The only answer seems to be some waffle about 'contextual certainty', which in practice overcomes none of the above. Same with the cosmology: We hear all about these terrible zero worlders and dualists - but then that monism is not so hot either. So Rand's answer is...? You're left thinking WTF? We just get told over and over again that she solved all these problems; we never get told how in any detail. Not in the ITOE, not in OPAR, not anywhere. Certainly not, yet again, in these lectures.

The widespread belief among Objectivists that Ayn Rand solved important philosophical problems is rather like the widespread belief that there were Iraqis on the Sept 11 planes. If the authorities make out that it is so strongly and repetitively enough, people come to believe it, even though it is plainly false. For example, I can't count the number of times Objectivists have told me that Rand refuted Hume's problem of induction; yet there she is, in black and white on page 303/4 of the ITOE (latest edition) saying she hasn't solved it, and moreover that she doesn't have the first clue how to! (She also makes the astonishingly naiive remark that some 'scientist' will tell us how to solve it!) Honestly, after hearing all this vehemency about Hume (and obviously Kant as a result), then to see this with your own eyes is absolutely amazing. You realise that they literally don't know what they are talking about.

Even tho it's early days, I can't help feeling that already DIM is just another rehash; more fake intelligence designed to unleash yet another phoney war of words.

Neil Parille said...

Incidentally, I saw on Allan Gotthelf's university page that he has an article coming out in the Review of Metaphysics on "Rand, Essences & Definitions" (or something like that).

http://www.pitt.edu/~hpsdept/people/fac_pages/gotthelf.html

So maybe we will eventually get some sort of defense of Rand's ideas in this area

Daniel Barnes said...

I've also been thinking a bit about what Rand means by 'abstracting' (and also 'abstractions'). She talks about it a lot but never describes it in any detail.

Apparently to get conceptual knowledge we 'abstract' from perceptions. (this 'abstracting' apparently must be an involuntary process to a certain point for she claims it is the only way humans can survive, it is their unique mode of cognition. But then for some reason she also treats it as volitional - you have to choose to think. It's probably more double-talk, but let's leave that for now)

I can only think of five types of mental processes she might be referring to by 'abstracting'. In no particular order:

1) Imaginative conjecture
2) Mystical intuition
3) Social intuition (or roughly 'commonsense')
4) Logical deduction
5) Biological knowledge (roughly 'instincts')

Given that 'imagination' is hardly mentioned in the Objectivist epistemology - or in Objectivism generally - 'abstracting' is unlikely to mean 1). 2) is out, clearly, as is the 'social metaphysics' of 3). This leaves 4).5) is probably out too, tho is a corner case as she seems to be saying 'abstracting' via deductive logic is natural to humans.

So we can summarise her ideal of epistemological validity simply as sense perceptions from which logical deductions are made. Is this about right?

Dragonfly said...

Lecture 3: One of Peikoff's examples in this lecture is the particle/wave nature of light. According to Peikoff all the D's (disintegrators) love it! He says: "it's not always certain corrupt physicists who like that - that is a d-attitude!" Now I wonder what Peikoff is trying to tell us. Does he think that it is not true that light can behave like a particle and like a wave? He is completely silent about that, which looks like evasion to me. Blankout, Rand would say. Or does he in fact grudgingly accept this as a fact, and is he only saying that it is a bad attitude to like it, and that we should mourn this bad behavior of mother Nature? The fact that he's talking about "corrupt" physicists suggests the first option. But then I'd like to know what his theory of light is and how he can explain all the experimental evidence. Where is your integration, Dr Peikoff?

Neil Parille said...

I was surprised that Peikoff said he had never heard of Richard Feynman. Also, Peikoff said that he "read once" that Kant was the founder of "non-objective art." I don't get the impression that he is all that informed on the topics he is opining.

Listening to Peikoff reminded me of a point that David Gordon made in his review of Ominous Parallels: it never seems to occur to him that Kantians or any non-Objectivists are responding to serious issues raised by other philosophers.

Daniel Barnes said...

Neil Parille:
>it never seems to occur to him that Kantians or any non-Objectivists are responding to serious issues raised by other philosophers.

That's the craziest part - and another tributary into the cult-like aspects of Objectivism. There's no sense of the existence of genuine philosophical problems. There are only evil myths propogated by dark hordes mind-destroying irrationalists, that once every millenia or so a hero arises to do battle with. It's basically a fairy story. In fact, the rise of philosophic theories, mistaken or otherwise, is usually in response to a genuine problem with previous theories. For example, it appears Plato proposed his mysterious world of perfect primal forms after the Pythagorean attempt to explain the world as purely arithmetic collapsed with the problem of irrational numbers. This lead the way to geometric explanations of the physical world - and subsequently a new problem, with the clash between the timeless perfection of abstract geometry and its crude reproduction in the physical world. This lead to Plato's similar speculation on 'forms' of political and social systems.

But of this we learn nothing in Objectivism, other than that Plato is the evil propogator of an evil system. Repeating myself, the same applies to Kant. There is no sense that he is replying to a genuine problem raised by Hume - merely that he has taken an evil suggestion by Hume and multiplied it one hundredfold.

Thus one of the great philosophical problems of all time is portrayed over and over again as merely an evil lie, easily solved by the latest lone millenial hero armed only with the self-evident!

Yet in some obsure end-page of this millenial heroine's least read book, we find her offhandedly admitting she actually has no idea how to solve this great problem (and inadvertently admitting she doesn't really understand it). One day someone at the ARI will notice this confession and it will be quietly deleted I am sure.

So mythology must be promoted over reality at all times. Thus real problems must be ignored in favour of good vs evil fairy stories.

Neil Parille said...

I'm up to session 7, which is on hisoriography. Peikoff attacks Arnold Toynbee's thery of history as "meaningless" and not even worth studying because he just collects random generalizations about multiple civilizations without any context or epistemology.

This is a complete misrepresetation of Toynbee's project, particularly the later volumes. Toynbee's theory of history has been compared to Hegel and various idealist systems.

Peikoff also ridicules those who would find multiple factors in the rise of the Nazis. These people scorn philosophy. But what is so hard about believing that even given the popularity of the Nazis and the evil of their philosophy, that they would not have come to power without the depression, the humiliations of the Versailles treaty and mistakes by anti-Nazi politicians?

Michael Prescott said...

>There's no sense of the existence of genuine philosophical problems. There are only evil myths propogated by dark hordes mind-destroying irrationalists, that once every millenia or so a hero arises to do battle with. It's basically a fairy story.

I don't think I'd ever noticed this before, at least not so clearly. You're absolutely right, Daniel. The whole history of ideas is reduced to a battle between good and evil, with good embodied by Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand ("the three A's," as Rand once immodestly said in the Q&A period of a Peikoff lecture), and evil embodied by nearly everyone else. There is no indication that these people were grappling with genuine philosophical problems, or at least problems that seemed genuine to them. Intellectual history is trivialized and oversimplified - "a fairy story," indeed.

Excellent point!

anon57 said...

'DIM Hypothesis' on the home page caught my eye. I decided to take a look. The comments on Peikoff's hypothesis were pretty negative. That was no surprise, since it is dimwitted. I also find an off-topic remark by Barnes even more dimwitted.

"I've also been thinking a bit about what Rand means by 'abstracting' (and also 'abstractions'). She talks about it a lot but never describes it in any detail. ...
I can only think of five types of mental processes she might be referring to by 'abstracting'. In no particular order:

1) Imaginative conjecture
2) Mystical intuition
3) Social intuition (or roughly 'commonsense')
4) Logical deduction
5) Biological knowledge (roughly 'instincts')"

Contrary to his first point, here are Rand's own words in ITOE as plain as day.

"The act of isolation involved is a process of abstraction: i.e., a selective mental focus that takes out or separates a certain aspect of reality from all others (e.g., isolates a certain attribute from the entities possessing it, or a certain action from the entities performing it, etc.)."

Despite this and 'abstraction' being a pretty common word, Barnes conjures 5 hypotheses about what Rand meant, designed to portray Rand as a dimwit. That's the kind of dimwitted scholarship typical of this website.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon57:
>The comments on Peikoff's hypothesis were pretty negative. That was no surprise, since it is dimwitted.

Well, it's nice to know we agree on something, Anon57!

Re: your Rand quote, you refer to isolation as "abstraction." But integration, the opposite of isolation, is also abstract.

I don't regard any of 1-5 as "dimwitted." They're an attempt to summarise the various proposed forms of human knowledge. As she denigrates or omits all the others - except for 5) perhaps, as she refers to "stomach feelings" in PARC - that left 4) Logic as what she means by "integration."

I don't regard Rand as "dimwitted." I regard some of her theories as wrong, and some of her followers as dimwitted.

anon57 said...

Barnes: "But integration, the opposite of isolation, is also abstract."

Don't you know the difference between 'abstract' and 'integrate', both verbs? Use a dictionary.

Barnes: "I don't regard Rand as dimwitted."

In the comments to Rand's Style of Argument: Part 1, you wrote: "The ITOE is nonsense."

That is as insulting as calling her a 'dimwit'.

Jay said...

In the comments to Rand's Style of Argument: Part 1, you wrote: "The ITOE is nonsense."

That is as insulting as calling her a 'dimwit'.


The difference is calling her a dimwit is ad hominem, while calling the ITOE nonsense is a claim about content. Even still, I wouldn't think too highly of someone's work I find to be nonsense.

Jay said...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=XSjskWl3Orw

Video of someone assessing the concept of open mindedness using the DIM hypothesis.

Ellen Stuttle said...

Jay wrote:

The difference is calling her a dimwit is ad hominem.

No, it's just an insult. An "ad hominem" is a logical fallacy which consists of claiming that because person Y has X characteristic, therefore person Y's opinion is wrong. An ad hominem substitutes an assessment of the person (hence "to the person") for an assessment of the argument. Calling a person names doesn't commit a fallacy as long as you don't include a "therefore."

Ellen

Jay said...

Ellen,

I'm aware, however often times the "therefore" is implied in the language and tone of the argument.

J