The Master and His Emissary has ratings and reviews. Iain McGilchrist In a book of unprecedented scope, McGilchrist draws on a vast body of. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist. Mary Midgley enjoys an exploration. Divided Brain, Divided World by Jonathan Rowson and Iain McGilchrist and the Humanities An Essay by Steven Pinker with Response by Iain McGilchrist.

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The insights drawn from brain experimentation and analysis are fascinating in themselves. Such a situation is not an absolute – it tells us not only about the chosen thing, but also about the chooser. In a positive review in The Guardianphilosopher Mary Midgley wrote that the book “points out the complexity, the divided nature of thought itself and asks about its connection with the structure of the brain”, [9] and that “though neurologists may well not welcome it because it asks them new questions, the rest of us will surely find it splendidly thought-provoking”.

If you are looking for some popular science, this may not be quite what you were expecting. Goes way beyond what science currently is able to tell us; the authors makes some sweeping, grandiose claims and generalizations while giving the false impression that the views described are backed by solid, incontrovertible data, instead of disputed, controversial, or even nonexistent facts.

He even, bizarrely, quotes a bit from one of the Upanishads about a bridge, which is supposed to be analogous to the corpus callossum’s function between the brain hemispheres – keeping ‘two worlds apart’. If a concept can be demonised, this is it. However, none of this relieves rationalist thinking from its many limitations, or repairs the damage it has wrought.

The book is divided into two parts.

Iain McGilchrist

Jan 18, Gary rated it really liked it. McGilchrist finds times in Western cultural history when attitudes, beliefs, and practices, reflecting the two differing perspectives and functions of the brain, were balanced, such as Periclean Athens and the Renaissance.

It is not, per contratrue that out of the unity of division and unity a new division comes, nor is it true that out of the division of unity and division a new division comes The first half is a review to date of research in the hemispherical differentiation of the human brain. In fact, he’s not making a case, he’s constructing an argument, very much a Left Hemisphere LH activity, and he’s doing it infuriatingly sloppily.

The Master and His Emissary| Book review | Books | The Guardian

McGilchrist finds this especially true in the 2oth century when examining contemporary literature and philosophy as well as the broader cultural milieu. The first part demands at least basic preexisting knowledge on neural anatomy and neural development, the second part is much more rewarding to be read by prior reading of philosophers all the big names; Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, Heidegger, From the author’s website, http: This is a disturbing book, well argued A long slow read for me.


McGilchrist may have lectured in English at Oxford and know tons about literature, but his style is at times rambling and ponderous. Mcgllchrist fields of politics, economics, power, ideology and the psychoanalytic tradition the latter a loose phrase; I’m thinking particularly of, though not necessarily endorsing, Marxist psychoanalysis and feminist psychoanalysis.

I most certainly hope ialn does not aiin brain is the same as mind! Are the habits we see in people watching or participating in sport, TV or mainstream cinema and what sorts of politics are currently fashionable equally a sign of left brain dominance? His love and care in researching and writing or creating it is evident.

It is a tremendously exciting read and one that caused me to experience many ‘Yes!

It may be better too, in terms of his central metaphor, to talk less, or imply less, absolute dominance of the mazter LH or good RH, since it’s likely that there are degrees of dominance. I’m currently at the beginning! I give this book 4 stars even though I only liked the first half or so of it.

Such knowledge often elevates the anti-rational, ’emotional’ right hemisphere, aka ‘the female side’ emissarj Yin principle, while dissing the unfeeling logical male left hemisphere. The book is actually two books. The result of the amorphous water and the form of the landscape is a river. Jul 20, Vagabond of Letters rated it did not like it.

Indeed, from Plato through Kant Western philosophy emphasized the left-hemisphere perspective with some exception for Spinoza: Second, the author doesn’t realize that religion is mostly left brain oriented. The author suggests that encouraging categorical thinking without background experience or without looking at the bigger picture is coming mcgikchrist the point where it distorts both thought and lives. Archived from the original on It is how we come to understand the world.

He begins by looking at brain functions in a quite straightforward way, not dissimilar to Damasio in approach. However, the brain is divided and is different on each side. Such people could do with reminding that many scientists and thinkers of the past, whose work underpins our technologically advanced society, themselves held religious convictions, but that doesn’t stop your light bulbs from working when you flick the switch.

I started reading this after seeing the Blake society lecture, but I was disappointed. I am intrigued by the workings of our brains and this book was a very thought provoking, informative way of looking at current brain research and how it applies to history.


His argument reminded me of some of the most stimulating books I’ve ever read. McGilchrist offers a wealth of neuroscientific evidence that the evolutionary advantage of this divide is to maintain the separation between these two types of attention, and thereby enhance the extent to which they are separately empowered by their inability to interfere with each other; thereby giving us two ways of looking at the world, the interplay of which gives rise to our incredible creative power.

Mar 21, Marjan rated it it was amazing. It could be worse, though – he may even be in the uncomfortable position of having nothing very flattering to say – he’s clearly no cultural relativist – and this may wrongly be construed as racism.

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

On the other hand, the RH way of looking at the world is, familiarly enough, holistic, contextual, interdependent, and—dare I say this? However, it also seems to me that deciding where the best balance lies between these – which itself may vary dependant on the specifics of the moment – is an exercise masyer right-hemispheric intuition to resolve, so in a roundabout way maybe he’s still correct.

McGilchrist says at the outset that he does not intend to examine the cultural history of the orient due to a lack of familiarity, but towards the end of the book he expresses a belief that east asian cultures may have something to teach the West in hks of getting back in touch with our right hemispheres.

His wide emsisary knowledge shows in this book where he flows effortlessly between discussions about the structure of the brain, philosophy, literature, poetry, art and history. This is obviously the work of his life.

He came to modern times by describing our thinking as seeing so many things as objects, detached from us and frequently splitting body and soul. While ‘almost all pictographic writing systems favour a vertical layout 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 maser have always known.

The author clearly feels that right-hemisphere ‘ways of being’ need to be brought back into our world to a greater extent. Jcgilchrist is difficult, even dangerous, to reduce this data-driven and nuanced presentation to a few words.