The Matter With Things – Iain McGilchrist

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Iain McGilchrist’s new 2-volume book was published earlier this week – I’ve not yet received my copy and was unable to attend any of the launch events either online or in person – but here is Iain with Jonathan Rowson of the publisher Perspectiva:

I’ve referred to McGilchrist and his “Master and Emissary” over 50 times in my work and had the pleasure of meeting him at one of the “How The Light Gets In” events. Here I’m just collecting a few key pieces before I receive his latest. First the RSA-Animate that Jonathan refers to:

And here the full-length The Divided Brain – Film.

And let’s add previews on his latest:

And post-notes:

9 thoughts on “The Matter With Things – Iain McGilchrist”

  1. Oddly enough, I’m reading The Master and His Emissary now. It finally arrived from the local library. I’ve hinted that I want my own copy for Christmas, because it touches on many of the themes of my blog.

    As I read Matthew d’Ancona’s “The Kathleen Stock case. . .”, I’m reminded of McGilchrist’s thesis. “Amazingly,” d’Ancona writes, “it has become heretical (at least in elite intellectual and political circles) to assert the reality of biological sex, on the post-modern grounds that biology is a minor matter compared to self-identified gender.” This is very much a left-brain way of approaching the issue: The analytical point of view must be pressed home, regardless of context. Thus,to the left brain’s bemusement, this “niche issue” has come to dominate Tortois news meetings.

    People who want urgently to assert the primacy of biology in cultural matters are simply insensitive to the cultural nuances. It’s not far from arguing that “men and men and women are women” to saying that men should dominate women because they are bigger and stronger and full of testosterone, while women are softer and more nurturing and accepting, and can’t run as fast.

    The tone-deafness of rational thinkers who publish potentially incendiary books and then act offended because they’ve caused profound upset is risibly “left-brain.” By all means, if they think biology is underrated, they should pursue their academic work patiently and diligently. That they want to make a big noise about it, without a moment’s consideration of the context, shows how far the emissary has gotten out of hand.

  2. I didn’t make those specific connections – but yes it’s the same agenda running through all the topics I post about.
    Rationality-101 / “Left-Brain” is killing (cancelling) all other valid discourse – and that’s very bad for humanity.

    I was really just rejecting your suggestion that the cancellation culture in “liberal” academic institutions (and would-be liberal media too) is not real or problematic – and much more far-reaching than just a few specific “famous” cases. Like it or not, more right-wing / Libertarian channels are much more “liberal” and welcoming. It’s a failure of the liberal-left.

  3. Psybertron, do you have any views on the connection between McGilchrist’s left-mode/right-mode metaphors and political orientation (Left/Right and/or conservative liberal)?

    My take is that both modes are present in all political parties and orientations, but I find that very often, those on the Left simply assumes everyone on the Right is left mode (ie bad) and everyone on the Right simply assumes everyone the Left is left mode (ie bad).

    I think it’s much more nuanced than that. Any thoughts?

  4. Hi Don,
    hope it’s ok for others to jump in on this too – it’s a very good question.

    My sense is that McGilchrist’s work would suggest the that RH (right hemisphere) people are usually in the center or moderate left/right politically. Strong or fringe left/right are both more LH driven, literal, aggressive, intolerant to ambiguities, driven by power and control.
    Though maybe the far right will self-identify as being logically driven, while far left more emotionally/compassion driven. So the evasive part is how some dogmatic left wing ideas might actually be based on a LH modeled reality, not the more unfiltered reality of the RH. If any of this made any sense!

  5. Hi Don, I see Richard has already replied.

    No connection between those two uses of left and right.
    (And parallels can only be coincidental. Linguistic confusion.)

    The political compass left-right comes historically from two sides of the debating chamber – but when talking (social-democratic) 21st C politics I prefer to focus on the libertarian – authoritarian axis.

    There will of course be connections between political values and left-right brain models – many in fact, it’s how we make decisions. Identity politics is one such area that interests me.

  6. Agreed. Any relationships are empirical where we find people with different value sets.
    And indeed it will tend to be the extremes on either political side that are trapped by their left-brained views.

  7. Hi, Don. The same question interests me, and I touched on it in a couple of blog posts at my own site (The Divided Review, Part I: McGilchrist and Trump Nation, and Part II: The Doctrine of the Two Halves of the Brain). I meant to return to the subject, but so far I’m still not sure what to add.

    I like Richard’s Emerson’s take, above, but McGilchrist’s overall approach seems to invite further interpretation in terms of 20th or 21st century modernism or postmodernism.

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