The Master and His Emissary
Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been puzzled over for centuries. In a book of unprecedented scope, Iain McGilchrist draws on a vast body of recent brain research, illustrated with case histories, to reveal that the difference is profoundnot just this or that function, but two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experie...more
This is certainly the most remarkable non-fiction book I have read this century. You know the 'diamond bullet' quote from Apocalypse Now? This book was like a machine gun firing diamond bullets, straight into my skull, thu...more
It took McGilchrist 20 years to write.
From the author's website, http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com/brief_... , comes a brief description of the book which you may be best to read first or only.
Now I was very sniffy about even picking this book up. The author had been doing the publicity tour and several people after about the five minutes or so minute interview they may have heard, were waxing lyrical to me about how a real scientist confirmed what the ancients have always known. Such knowledge o...more
McGilchrist's thesis is simpl...more
This book points out the complexity, the divided nature of thought itself and asks about its connection with the structure of the brain. McGilchrist looks at the relation between our tw...more
What was most off putting for me was the second chapter dealin...more
Can't help but think of Leonard Schlain's work positing that the rise of alphabetic language fueled domination by the left hemisphere, resulting in changes in culture. (Also seems like this book explains why we are Predictably Irrational and Strangers to Ourselves, etc.)
Oddly, reading this (& others) prompted me to ponder Fiction (perhaps because have taught Romeo & Juliet to 9th graders). That is, Fiction's domination over...more
There are very, very few books like this.
Some of this has been covered or hinted at by others, but not in this way. Something McGilchrist says which bears repetition is that he does not want to fall into a simplistic or stereotypical way of thinking about the left and right brain, and he doesn't.
I've seen good and bad newspaper reviews ie reviews by people who really have read it (Mary Midgely) and by people who have skimmed it (Boyd Tonkin).
Personally, I thought this was an amazing book. It makes some very bold claims about the nature of our being and understanding the world, which, if even partly true, have deep implications for core questions of humanity.
Of course, that gives all the more reason for them to be taken with a grain of salt.
Yet, unlike other books making bold claims, I was pleasantly surprised to fin...more
On the plus side, it's an interesting read and a welcome respite from the torrent of popular neuroscience and popular psychology works arguing that...more
McGilchrist is a former consultant psychiatrist, a researcher in neuroimaging, as well as lecturer in English at Oxford University! He took 20 years to write the book, which sets out to "attempt to understand the structure of the world that the brain has in part created." (p.1)
It's a lofty aim and he's a credible writer...more
This book is McGilchrist's extended analysis of the differences between the two hemispheres of the brain, and the ramifications of those differences in the world at large. Hardly anything is left untouched.
So this is my favorite sort of book, I think - something like Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, an analytical work of nonfiction striving towards a thematic insight that lies outside the bounds of rationality. In this book, that...more
I don't recommend this book to everyone, however, I thoroughly enjoyed wading through Iain McGilchrist's work. Finding that in the first half or so of the book he expansively mapped out historical on over into current neurological discoveries held my attention. He took hold of me both because of my years in emergency psychiatric work and now having lived without my left temporal lobe for a decade. By the time, I...more
After getting into the firs 100 pages, this section sometimes felt like it was written by a Humanities professor who wishes he had gone into a more hard science....more
For example on page 184 he talks of the Primacy of Affect where we intuitively assess the whole at once and then, (and this is where I was challenged) and only then gather pieces of evidence to explain and justify our cho
I thought the first half of the book on the divided brain made a successful argument that the left and right hemispheres of our brain having very different personalities and agendas. Based on various research with split brain patients, patients with strokes or brain lesions, neuro imaging studies etc, McGilchrist made a great case t...more
The ideology of the writer seems a little too romantic and tending towards a rejection of the mechanization of the western world, as if that is just a bad thing and moreover a direct consequence of our brain structures ...
Our brain can also help us to make other choices, an...more
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The word 'true' suggest a relationship between things: being true to someone or something, truth as loyalty, or something that fits, as two surfaces may be said to be 'true.' It is related to 'trust,' and is fundamentally a matter of what one believes to be the case. The Latin word verum (true) is cognate with a Sanskrit word meaning to choose or believe: the option one chooses, the situation in which one places one's trust. Such a situation is not an absolute - it tells us not only about the chosen thing, but also about the chooser. It cannot be certain: it involves an act of faith and it involves being faithful to one's intentions.”