Tolerance and DIM
by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.
In light of recent events that have raised the controversy of David Kelley “toleration” and moral concerns once again regarding who one ought to associate with once one becomes an Objectivist, I thought I'd present the issue from a different light after reading and coming to understand The DIM Hypothesis by Dr. Peikoff.
First off, I think those who are calling for “toleration” do not have the right concept in mind as I think the issue of moral concerns are covered in the Objectivist concept of objectivity (the method of thought) integrated with the fact that human beings have a volitional consciousness and therefore do things intentionally, which leads to the concept of justice. It is the concept and the applications of justice that ought to concern oneself when dealing with others, regardless of their state of consciousness or level of knowledge – or rather, an objective conceptualization of justice will take the other person's context into account when holding them responsible for what they do intentionally.
Second of all, I think the leadership of the Objectivist popular movement gets a lot of flack from those who do not know how to apply either objectivity or justice as these concern the mental processes, thoughts, and actions of others. Rationality is the primary virtue of Objectivism, and many people seem not to realize that rationality consist of making sure your mind – your conscious volitional mind – has a firm grasp of existence according to similarities and differences as observed with the senses; in other words, logic is non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality as given by observation, and this process takes place in the privacy of one's own mind before one undertakes explicit physical action to either accomplish a task or to destroy a value. One is rational and therefore moral, or irrational and therefore immoral, long before the explicit physical action of acting on one's premises takes place. All of the virtues of Objectivism have both an intellectual side (how one's mind works) and an existential side (what you do regarding your thoughts in physical reality), and both have to be integrated and both have to be taken into account when one is assessing the moral worth of oneself and others.
As an example, let's say an individual decides to think things through critically and rationally, and decided to have moral integrity and acts according to his rational thoughts and creates something of great value, like a new rational philosophical theory, let's say. A specific case of this would be Aristotle coming up with his ideas regarding logic and causation, as he wrote about those issues. Now given these facts, he was rational and moral before he sat down to write his thesis because he had to set his mind to focus on the facts of reality in a rational and non-contradictory manner before he could put pen to paper. In this case, the actor is rational and moral from the get-go. On the other hand, if we have someone who is consistently avoiding or evading the facts of reality and comes up with a anti-theory that flies in the face of reality, and writes in such a confusing and obfuscatory manner that it numbs the mind to read what he wrote, and he doesn't stop to check his premises before putting his anti-thoughts to paper and comes up with a very destructive set of ideas that he is going to present, then this person was irrational and immoral from the get-go. He is deliberately creating something that will be destructive, and many times this is his motivation if he is consistently irrational throughout. A case like this would be Kant, who's anti-system of philosophy has brought the destruction of The Enlightenment, and there is no way he could have pseudo-thought this way so consistently without having that destructive purpose in mind.
Since a man moves his own mind intentionally, and must remain connected to the facts or avoids them intentionally, a man has to be praised or condemned based upon the functioning of his own volitional mind as to whether he was thinking about the facts or avoiding them. In these examples, Aristotle was rational and virtuous, whereas Kant was irrational and viceful; and one can judge each man on the nature of what he wrote and how he wrote it.
Now, what does all of this have to do with The DIM Hypothesis? As Dr. Peikoff demonstrates throughout his book, the mode of thinking or anti-thinking prevalent in a given culture tends to remain stable over time, unless someone comes along to break the mold or to set man off onto another course of thoughts and actions. Once a man accepts a certain methodology or an anti-methodology, he is basically stuck with it until something better or something worse comes along to get him to check his premises; this can be either better or worse ideas or some calamity that sets his culture on edge. In the case of The Enlightenment, which was an integrated mode of thinking consistent with the facts of reality (with some flaws), this methodology could have remained stable for many centuries, except that Immanuel Kant came along to destroy it. We could be living in a rational culture instead of a self-destructive one, if Kant had not changed the mental mode of functioning of the entire culture. For this, he has to be condemned as evil.
DIM also sets a new context for judging the mental functioning of others insofar as one's mental methodology tends to remain stable once accepted and made explicit. In other words, as with a culture, a given individual is set in his philosophical ways, for better or for worse, until either he or someone else comes up with a different methodology or anti-methodology that becomes accepted by the individual. For this reason, those who have not yet been exposed to Ayn Rand's new rational philosophy and are stuck in a self-destructive mode of thinking due to the influence of Plato or Kant must be given some leeway as one attempts to convert them to a new, integrated mode of thinking. However, this does not absolve someone of their primary responsibility to be rational, which is a fact-based virtue, insofar as each man does have access to existence first-hand by means of his senses and his rational mind.
In any given case, one must assess whether that other person is being rational or irrational, by a rational standard that one does know and does need to apply to all situations, it's just that one cannot assume that each person should have become another Ayn Rand all on their own without that specific guidance. New philosophies don't just spring up with each new person thinking things through. Objectivism really only counts four people as being major philosophers, and those are Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Ayn Rand; and those four cover a time span of thousands of years, with various mixtures in-between philosophical epochs. While Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is the solution to Kant's destructiveness, it can take a long time for any given individual to come to understand it and to begin to integrate it to his own life and standards. So, one must be careful in judging others as to their methodologies as to what they have or have not been exposed to. Generally speaking, if they have not heard of Ayn Rand and a fact-based rationality, then they tend to be at the mercy of the prevalent cultural influence which is Kantian dis-integration in our current context, with just enough Aristotle to prevent a total collapse to barbarism. I'm not saying here that one ought to be tolerant of the irrational -- which one should never do -- but one must keep in mind that past a certain point of acceptance of a mental mode, one might be stuck there for quite some time before unlearning that mode and switching to another integrated mode of thought.
The overall point, if we are to win this battle for the human mind, is that one needs to be both persistent and persuasive with regard to reason based on the facts in an integrated manner, while not breaching rationality in dealing with others. As Hugh Akston, the archetype rational philosopher in Atlas Shrugged put it: "When thinkers accept those who deny the existence of thinking, as fellow thinkers of a different school of thought—it is they who achieve the destruction of the mind. They grant the enemy's basic premise, thus granting the sanction of reason to formal dementia. A basic premise is an absolute that permits no co-operation with its antithesis and tolerates no tolerance.”
Also see Fact and Value by Dr. Peikoff