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Submitted by seddon on Mon, 2013-07-01 21:43

Does DIM mischaracterize Rand epistemology as fundamentally “integration?” Chapter One of the book is entitled “Integration.” He claims there that, “Integration, [Rand] said, was the key to understanding human knowledge as such, all of it, in any field, era, or stage of development.” (5-6) Now I’m not denying the tremendous importance of integration. But I think mention should be made of “differentiation.” And here I’m echoing Rand from ITOE. She says there, “Consciousness. . .is. . .an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration.” (5) All concepts, and hence all conceptual knowledge including concepts, propositions, arguments and sciences require differentiation as well as integration. Peikoff even refers to this very fact when he quotes Rand on concept formation. “a concept is an integration of percepts. It is an integration of similar percepts that have first been isolated mentally form a background of different percepts.” “Different” carries the weight of differentiation in this sentence. Better is her descriptive formulation in ITOE. “When a child observes that two [tables] are different from four [chairs], his mind is focusing on a particular attribute of the objects (their shape) then isolating them according to their difference, and integrating them as units into separate groups according to their similarities.” (6) As I read this, all chairs are integrated in one class and differentiated from the class of tables. From this we can see that there are no concepts without differentiation. If one didn’t differentiate chairs from tables, they would be grouped together and we would have neither the concept “table” nor the concept “chair.” I would claim that differentiation is equiprimordial with integration.

A more equitable account of these twin engines of knowledge is provided by Kant; no surprise there. In the section entitled, “The Regulative Employment of the Ideas of Pure Reason,” he talks about the principles that are necessary to all science, viz., the principle of manifoldness (differentiation) and the principle of unity (integration). An example of the first is our constant search for sub-species of species; of the latter, the desire to integrate species into a higher genus. Ironically, he gives Newton’s theory of gravitation as an example of the latter, just like Peikoff.

But the importance of these two modes is much older than Kant. It goes back, at least, to Plato. In the PHAEDRUS, Socrates says, “I myself am certainly a lover, Phaedrus, of these processes of division and collection, so that I may have the ability to speak and think.” (266b3)

So where does that get us. We see that differentiation and integration are equally important and you cannot, ideally, have one without the other. I don’t know it that means we have to add another “D” to “DIM” and get DIMD, or since differentiation is so intimately connected with integration we hae to place it next to the “I” and get DIDM. But alas, that doesn’t sound like any English word.

Now I want to suggest a final point. Differentiation can be seen to be a kissing cousin of disintegration. Recall the D1 mode. Like integration, it does achieve unity, but is a “unity through: natural world/grasped in unrelated chunks [species might be a less pejorative way of making this point] by lower level concepts.” Comte is the philosopher Peikoff chooses as an example of this mode. But if we make this move, i.e., identify, or at least relate, differentiation with disintegration (in Comte’s sense) then disintegration does not come off so badly. The D1-D2 split begins to look like a chasm. Whether that is good or bad I will leave for another occasion.


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