Posted: 16 May 2014 05:00 AM PDT
For centuries we’ve wondered about the left hemisphere and right hemisphere divide.
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, psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains in The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, “helps explain the origins of music and language, and casts new light on the history of philosophy, as well as on some mental illnesses.”
“My thesis,” McGilchrist writes, “is that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities:”
These two hemispheres “coexist together on a daily basis, but have fundamentally different sets of values, and therefore priorities, which means that over the long term they are likely to come into conflict. Although each is crucially important, and delivers valuable aspects of the human condition, and though each needs the other for different purposes, they seem destined to pull apart.”
Both of these hemispheres are “hugely valuable,” but they stand in opposition to one another and “need to be kept apart—hence the bihemispheric structure of the brain.”
McGilchrist explores the differences between our two hemispheres and argues that modern society, and its formal structures, favors the left brain:
Yet we require both sides of our brain … (much like our Apollonian desire for control and order balances our natural Dionysian wildness).
Below is a fascinating video from RS Animate of McGilchrist explaining how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.
Still curious? Read The Master and His Emissary.
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