Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Iain McGilchrist - Anyone with Half a Brain Can See That! (at TEDxGhent)


Iain McGilchrist is the author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2012), a somewhat controversial book (see here, and here for McGilchrist's response, and a reply from the original critic), and the briefer version (31 pages), The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning (2012, Kindle only, $0.99).

Here is a review from Publisher's Weekly (from the book's Amazon page):
A U.K. mental health consultant and clinical director with a background in literature, McGilchrist attempts to synthesize his two areas of expertise, arguing that the "divided and asymmetrical nature" of the human brain is reflected in the history of Western culture. Part I, The Divided Brain, lays the groundwork for his thesis, examining two lobes' significantly different features (structure, sensitivity to hormones, etc.) and separate functions (the left hemisphere is concerned with "what," the right with "how"). He suggests that music, "ultimately... the communication of emotion," is the "ancestor of language," arising largely in the right hemisphere while "the culture of the written word tends inevitably toward the predominantly left hemisphere." More controversially, McGilchrist argues that "there is no such thing as the brain" as such, only the brain as we perceive it; this leads him to conclude that different periods of Western civilization (from the Homeric epoch to the present), one or the other hemisphere has predominated, defining "consistent ways of being that persist" through time. This densely argued book is aimed at an academic crowd, is notable for its sweep but a stretch in terms of a uniting thesis.
For those who want a little more about this book and its central thesis, I am also including the RSA Animates video excerpted from McGilchrist's talk and workshop at the RSA.

Iain McGilchrist - Anyone with Half a Brain Can See That! (at TEDxGhent)

Published on Jan 11, 2014

Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and writer, committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise -- the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains. His talk 'The Divided Brain' was a Best of the Web pick by TED!

Here is the RSA Animate video - enjoy!

Uploaded on Oct 21, 2011

In this new RSA Animates, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA's free public events programme. To view the full lecture, go here. RSA is a 258 year-old charity devoted to creating social progress and spreading world-changing ideas. For more information about our research, RSA Animates, free events programme and 27,000 strong fellowship.
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