There We Have It

Mentioned earlier collecting previous links in preparation for receiving Iain McGilchrist’s latest, well here it is:

Iain McGilchrist
The Matter With Things –
Our Brains, Our Delusions
and the Unmaking of the World

        • Volume I – The Ways to Truth
          • Introduction
          • Part 1 – Chapters 1 to 9 plus Coda
            The Hemispheres and the Means of Truth
          • Part 2 – Chapters 10 to 19 plus Coda
            The Hemispheres and the Paths to Truth
          • Appendices (1 -3)  to Vol I
        • Volume II – What Then is True?
          • Part 3 – Chapters 20 to 28 plus Coda
            The Unforeseen Nature of Reality
          • Epilogue
          • Appendices (4 – 8) to Vol II
          • Bibliography
          • Index of Topics
          • Index of Names

[Full index here at Channel McGilchrist.]

Beautifully produced by Perspectiva, see publisher and editor Jonathan Rowson’s introduction in the post linked at the top.

References in marginal side-panels of every page and, as with the previous Master and Emissary, almost a 1/3 of the 1577 pages taken up with end materials – reference bibliography, index and appendices.

As well as all the blurbs and commentary / interviews already circulating, simply:

“One of the most important books ever published.”

I couldn’t help but notice the parallel in the form of the title with physicist Lee Smolin:

      • The Trouble with Physics.
      • The Matter with Things.

Like the thorough referencing, McGilchrist’s scientific, practicing and academic credentials are very important to this project, since the level of positive commendation, the book clubs and retreats studying his work and the association with other alt-academics could easily create the impression of an alt-lifestyle cult (in much the same way Jordan Peterson’s following might appear to some). The content is of course very much alt-received-wisdom so it demands very careful consideration. Part of that alternative wisdom is in the integration of orthodox objective & positivist science with the sense of the sacred, even divine – soul food as well as brain food “beyond prevailing epistemic capacities and spiritual sensibilities”.

As well as the immense collection of references a long list of individual acknowledgements, not just in the core neuroscience and psychotherapy technical areas, but all over the map from: Lee Smolin, within the fundamental physics camp, noted after I’d made the parallel above; Rupert Read, green activist and Wittgensteinian philosopher; Philip Pullman, humanist and fantasy fiction writer; and Nick Spencer, senior fellow at Theos, the Christian think tank, to name a few.

“A [remarkable work] written with
the soul and subtlety of a poet,
the precision of a philosopher, and
the no-nonsense grounding of a true scientist”
– Read suggests.

I may be some time.


The introduction alone is 47 pages with 99(!) references of its own. McGilchrist’s Hemispheric Hypothesis (and more) introduced and – as in his previous Master and Emissary – contrasted with earlier pop-psychology misconceptions. (I’ll hold off any spoilers until later reviews.)

I’m nearing the end of Volume I Part 1. The 9 chapters and 270-odd pages that form the technical means at McGilchrist’s disposal. The neuroscience and psychotherapy sources and resources. Full of those famous published names like Hughlings-Jackson, Sacks, Damasio, Ramchandran, Sperry, Gazzaniga, Bolte-Taylor, Kahneman and Tversky as well as the mass of lesser-sung heroes of primary and secondary research and practice. An important solid foundation that is tough going if it’s not the kind of technical subject matter you’ve read before. As advertised, the chapter summaries will prove useful. The anatomical plates from p430 onwards are invaluable too. The human condition exposed in neuro-atypical conditions from split brains and traumas to epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism – mercifully without a single mention of the over-used Phineas Gage in almost 1600 pages.

I noted earlier the beautiful presentation and resolved when I started to read once right through without taking notes or – god forbid – physical annotation on the publisher’s work of art. Well, I can report that lasted as far as Chapter 7. That’s a particularly interesting section on “Cognitive Intelligence” and measures of general intelligence “g” – like IQ-Testing – and especially what misleading features and comparisons such tests might really expose. I’d like to think Nassim Nicholas-Taleb would approve of the treatment (*). No surprise to find the Hemispheric Hypothesis conclusion that a general decline in general intelligence is closely associated with devaluation of the right-brain.

Reading on.


(*) Ha. Didn’t know it at this time, but Taleb privides one of the positive blurbs on the Channel McGilchrist page about the book. And that later there is at least one reference to Taleb’s Antifragile.

“I loved The Master and his Emissary: this is even deeper.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb