In his book, The DIM Hypothesis, philosopher-historian Leonard Peikoff states that America has essentially embodied two modes in its cultural history.
America started as an “I” (Integrated) culture, as embodied by the Aristotelian-Newtonian outlook of the Founding Fathers.
Then, over some period not explicitly defined by Peikoff, in a development he did not deem it necessary to elaborate upon, it gradually shifted from its “I” mode into the “D” (Dis-integrated) mode unleashed by Immanual Kant upon the world, and embodied in the thinking of American philosophers John Dewey and William James, among others.
From a DIM Perspective, Peikoff seems to be saying, the key is thus the “big picture” that shows that America was “I” and then switched to “D.” And, drawing upon his analysis of modal transitions and the evolving state of American culture, he now anticipates a shift to M2–the crucial aspect of which will be religious totalitarianism in politics.
Although my own professional studies of history corroborate Peikoff’s overall analysis, and I thus do anticipate the daunting outcome of religious fascism in America, I have been drawn into a more intensive analysis of cultural modes, in American history in particular, in order to map with a greater precision what modes have been active in American culture over time, how they have interacted, and what the consequences are for us here and now, as our “culture war” unfolds, and those of us who are willing and able try to defend and promote the “I” mode.
As I undertook my analysis, it became evident that modes exist in a continual interrelated flux. That is to say: every available mode is always accepted and promoted by some group in society at all times. Since the rise of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, that has meant that every Western culture has been an admixture of “I” (Aristotelian), “M2″ (Platonic or Marxist), “M1″ (Cartesian), “D2″ (Kantian) and “D1″ (Utilitarian) modes of thought, with each mode at times ascendant in certain areas, dominating particular institutions, with its practitioners attempting to reclaim overall primacy.
Among the many questions this raises in my mind is: How does the advocacy of a mode in a particular area by a certain proponent interact with its complex modal milieu in “parallel” (as it impacts other institutions), and in “series” as it shapes the trajectory of that particular domain, and in the aggregate in shaping the overall modal trajectory of a culture?
This personally matters to me a great deal, as an “I” advocate in history and education. One thing I would like to know is: how much of an impact can I have? And how? And what obstacles will I face? How does one mode penetrate and defeat another in any specific domain, such as mine? As I watch advocates of reason try to defend “I” positions in a variety of areas, such as freedom of choice in medicine, fair taxation, deregulation, and the return to a gold standard, I am struck by how generally ineffective “I” advocates seem to be at present. Something is missing. A pro-I modal revolution is certainly not as simple as making more copies of Atlas Shrugged available, nor even training more philosophy students for academia. And I am highly skeptical of the overall value of the efforts of most “I” activists operating in separate cultural compartments. I want to know what the formula for a modal takeover is, and I want to help “I” win by finding out how to apply the formula and providing that insight as a transfusion to fellow “I” intellectuals and activists.
It’s a huge quest, to be sure. But I am also sure that if “I” intellectuals like me don’t take DIM seriously, we will lose.
So where to begin?
I am inclined to begin with what I know best, and to branch out from there.
Having just completed a “History of American Government” with my very advanced high school students, I decided that that seemed like the best place. (The course, by the way, is the best course I have ever given, and it is available in both MP3 audio and MP4 video screencast formats as podcast recordings. If you’re interested in understanding the trajectory of American Government, I honestly believe there is no better analysis available.)
Turning my attention there, I decided to apply my “modoscope” to the foreign policy of American presidents, to see if I could detect the modes involved. I was ecstatic to see that not only were the modes visible, they were glaringly obvious! They leaped out of the text! Thus I decided this would indeed be a productive avenue for exploring DIM.
In the first segment of the series, I am going to begin with the Truman Doctrine.
It is an easy one! Here is a link to the exact speech Harry Truman gave.
I invite you to read it and see if you can detect the mode.
My analysis should follow in a matter of days, so stay tuned! I hope you’ll enjoy this series as much as I’m enjoying producing it.