McGilchrist’s Divided Brain

An excellent, short (10m), animation of a lecture by Iain McGilchrist.

(Hat tip to David Morey on Facebook for the link.)

Blogged several references to reading McGilchrist’s “The Master and his Emissary” but never wrote a complete review in one post – It so knocked me out, it led me into other connected readings immediately. The lecture animation covers the essential beauty of his view. The halves of the brain have forgotten who’s in charge – neither. The right brain appreciates why it needs to collaborate with the left, but the left has forgotten why it needs the right. And this is a “western” mental illness.

Or, in McGilchrist’s words (after Einstein)

We honour the servant / emissary (rational mind)
but have forgotten the gift / master (intuitive mind).

Distinct but also vitally important point – the interconnection between the two (the corpus callosum under control of the frontal lobes) is inhibitive – permissive management control – that preserves the necessary distance between the two halves. [Very consistent with the view of free-will actually being free-wont.] There is actually more in the book than the lecture too, naturally.

[Post Note – 4th March 2013 – see also this Dr. Dave NPT Interview with Iain McGilchrist. Also hat-tip to David Morey. Biggest new point discussed – ~35:30 – is the gender differences !!! Women have “broader” corpus-callosum structures than men, so the connection / inhibition balance is significantly different – because women have different evolutionary survival needs from men – women are more robust and less expendable than riskier men. Don’t recall reading that in the book? The reference to Julian Janes too “Breakdown of the Bi-Cameral Mind” – no, but yes – not so much breakdown or loss of the divided brain, more an exaggeration of the division, coupled with an increasing emphasis on using the left, and to ignore the “voices of the gods” coming from the right. A breakdown of the optimal, balanced and enlightened functioning of the increasingly bi-cameral mind. Characterised as behaviour you’d only expect to see in autism – another recurring theme. Interesting Dr Dave also admits to being “blown away” by McGilchrist’s work too – so “knocked-out” I said. Full 55 mins interview plus additional 20 mins discussion by Dr Dave and commenters. Really, really good stuff.]

[Post Note – that lecture includes my whole agenda – scary – HOW DO WEjoin up the dots” between this thinking and the narrow “simplisticated” view that objective rationality is everything – rather than the definition of its own limitations. Say, in the naive but very public – faith vs science wars, the global economic & environmental “crises”, art and science funding, education, education, education, or crime & morality, responsibility & punishment debates. Some dots worth joining: Pirsig’s Quality before Objects, Nick Maxwell’s Scientific Neurosis, Alan Rayner’s Natural Inclusion, Iain McGlichrist’s Master and Emissary, Jill Bolte-Taylor’s Stroke of Insight, Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Framework, Dr. James Willis’ Scylla and Charybdis, Daniel Wegner’s Free Will as Free Won’t, Mary Parker-Follet’s Integration not Compromise – will do for now – ignoring many of the more explicitly philosophical and metaphysical resources.]