In the introduction, McGilchrist states that "there is, literally, a world of difference between the [brain] hemispheres. Understanding quite what that is has involved a journey through many apparently unrelated areas: not just neurology and psychology, but philosophy, literature and the arts, and even, to some extent, archaeology and anthropology. In "The Divided Brain", McGilchrist digests study after study, replacing the popular and superficial notion of the hemispheres as respectively logical and creative in nature with the idea that they pay attention in fundamentally different ways, the left being detail-oriented, the right being whole-oriented. Part Two: How the Brain Has Shaped Our World[ edit ] In the second part, "How the Brain Has Shaped Our World", the author describes the evolution of Western culture, as influenced by hemispheric brain functioning, from the ancient world, through the Renaissance and Reformation ; the Enlightenment ; Romanticism and Industrial Revolution ; to the modern and postmodern worlds which, to our detriment, are becoming increasingly dominated by the left brain.
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Most scientists long ago abandoned the attempt to understand why nature has so carefully segregated the hemispheres, or how to make coherent the large, and expanding, body of evidence about their differences. In fact to talk about the topic is to invite dismissal. And we now know that every type of function — including reason, emotion, language and imagery — is subserved not by one hemisphere alone, but by both. But, like the brain itself, the relationship between the hemispheres is not symmetrical.
However it turns out that the emissary has his own will, and secretly believes himself to be superior to the Master. And he has the means to betray him. The book begins by looking at the structure and function of the brain, and at the differences between the hemispheres, not only in attention and flexibility, but in attitudes to the implicit, the unique, and the personal, as well as the body, time, depth, music, metaphor, empathy, morality, certainty and the self.
It suggests that the drive to language was not principally to do with communication or thought, but manipulation, the main aim of the left hemisphere, which manipulates the right hand. It shows the hemispheres as no mere machines with functions, but underwriting whole, self-consistent, versions of the world.
Through an examination of Western philosophy, art and literature, it reveals the uneasy relationship of the hemispheres being played out in the history of ideas, from ancient times until the present. It ends by suggesting that we may be about to witness the final triumph of the left hemisphere — at the expense of us all.
It is not as some reviewers seem to think just one more glorification of feeling at the expense of thought. Rather, it points out the complexity, the divided nature of thought itself and asks about its connection with the structure of the brain. McGilchrist, who is both an experienced psychiatrist and a shrewd philo—sopher, looks at the relation between our two brain-hemispheres in a new light, not just as an interesting neurological problem but as a crucial shaping factor in our culture. He questions the accepted doctrine that the left hemisphere Left henceforward is necessarily dominant, the practical partner, while the right more or less sits around writing poetry. Moreover, it is Right that is responsible for surveying the whole scene and channelling incoming data, so it is more directly in touch with the world.