The Master and His Emissary

The Master and His Emissary

The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Book - 2009
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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 profound--not just this or that function, but two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world. The left hemisphere is detail oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is inclined to self-interest, where the right hemisphere has greater breadth, flexibility, and generosity. This division helps explain the origins of music and language, and casts new light on the history of philosophy, as well as on some mental illnesses.

In the second part of the book, McGilchrist takes the reader on a journey through the history of Western culture, illustrating the tension between these two worlds as revealed in the thought and belief of thinkers and artists, from Aeschylus to Magritte. He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences. This is truly a tour de force that should excite interest in a wide readership.

Publisher: New Haven : Yale University Press, c2009
ISBN: 9780300148787
Branch Call Number: 612.82 M174m
Characteristics: ix, 597 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm


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Jan 19, 2018

An erudite thesis that the split brain of humans has caused polarizing differences throughout Western history. The author begins with neuroscience to begin his thesis on the split brain but then uses philosophy and art to back up his thesis. The author within this book has suitably provided self criticism to the limitations to his thesis at the beginning and ending of his book, though only a few lines in an otherwise dense book. Since much of this book attacks my viewpoint and calls it inauthentic it is difficult to like. The book is replete with ascribing "blame" to left hemisphere thinking for what the author considers dubious thinking. For what many would call progress the author considers a wrong direction. The author fails to mention the many downsides of "right brain" thinking such as xenophobia,mobs,riots, pogroms, witch burning etc. but credits it with the "best" art, music and philosophy. At times the book seems to be a hidden apologia for the Roman Catholic Church. It is hard to take some of the sweeping statements the author claims for the "left brain" seriously, however as the author mentions at the conclusion, if the book is read as a metaphor it is worth reading for both "left brain" and "right brain" people.

MrBigReader Jul 03, 2014

Could not put down.

Oct 10, 2012

Likely to change the way you look at human behaviour at individual and societal levels. Well written, though the main refrain is often repeated. With his unique background, coming from the arts to neuroscience, he is one of the very few people who could offer such a unique and important perspective.

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