Iain McGilchrist and the battle over the left-brain, right-brain theory

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Iain McGilchrist and the battle over the left-brain, right-brain theory

Nick Spencer

Quote:As McGilchrist is at pains to repeat in his new book, both hemispheres are involved in more or less everything. It’s not so much that there is a strict division of responsibilities—although some faculties do reside in one half rather than the other, like language in the left side—so much as a division of style. The two hemispheres do things in different ways.

There is an evolutionary way of explaining this. All creatures need to do two things: first, to get things such as food or material for shelter; and second, to avoid being got by other things such as predators. The first of these demands intensely focused attention on whatever has already been identified as important. If you want to catch fast-moving prey, you need to deploy all your mental energies on your target. The left hemisphere is very good at doing this. The second demands vigilant and sustained attention to everything that might make a meal of you. This kind of attention, in which the right hemisphere excels, doesn’t already know  what is important. Its job is to discern what might be significant in the world—as it were, to keep an open mind.

To master both necessary and interdependent skills, evolution found a counter-intuitive solution: “two neuronal masses, separate enough to function independently, but connected enough to work in concert with one another, each capable of sustaining consciousness on its own.” It’s counter-intuitive because the brain achieves its remarkable powers by means of connections: why reduce that connectivity by splitting the whole thing in two?

Yet this is how the brain works—something very widely attested in scientific literature...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


I've always found McGilchrist to come across as confused. There's a lot of spirituality and soul in his ideas and somehow the left-brain / right-brain idea seems to cloud the issue. Perhaps he himself is not ready to recognise in plain language the independent human soul and to describe its role.
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If there were any profound difference between the two brain hemispheres, wouldn't you expect it to show up in those people who have one hemisphere removed (typically because of severe epilepsy).

Strangely it would seem that nothing much happens:

https://youthmedicaljournal.org/2021/02/...the-brain/

David
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(2022-03-04, 08:39 AM)Typoz Wrote: I've always found McGilchrist to come across as confused. There's a lot of spirituality and soul in his ideas and somehow the left-brain / right-brain idea seems to cloud the issue. Perhaps he himself is not ready to recognise in plain language the independent human soul and to describe its role.

Yeah my understanding is he is very supportive of Idealism, and possibly even of certain paranormal branches like Survival Research.

But it might that he is trying to describe what happens to consciousness within the confines of a brain as some kind of filtering mechanism. I have his latest book and it's quite long. Ideally at the end of it I'll have a better sense of his position.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2022-03-06, 12:05 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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