Minds askew

Iain McGilchrist, the psychiatrist and former English professor whose 2009 book on the human brain, The Master and His Emissary, is endlessly fascinating, discusses his ideas on the meaning of the brain’s hemispherical divide in this wonderful animation:

That helps explain, among many other things, why we’re so drawn to the metaphor that portrays the brain as a computer.

8 thoughts on “Minds askew

  1. Seth Finkelstein

    From the book description – “He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences.”

    That didn’t sound good. Not another wheeze, I hope, about how the unfeeling logical types are ruining it all versus the emotional artistic types. Dressing it up in the latest neuro-nonsense doesn’t make it any less reactionary.

  2. Nick Carr

    I would say that the book is significantly more interesting than the “book description,” but merely reading the book description does provide more room for jumping to conclusions.

  3. Josh Wimmer

    Huh. Do you think it’s a stretch to say the differences he highlights between the hemispheres are consonant with McLuhan’s concerns about the typographical/specialist mind-set versus the oral/holistic mind-set?

  4. Seth Finkelstein

    Reading a book to figure out if the book is worth reading is a logical paradox. One must generally make time allocation decisions based on imperfect and incomplete information.

  5. Sriram Narayan

    “The intutive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant but has forgotten the gift.” It is a pity that the scientific world has chosen to disregard such quotes from their own luminaries. Going by your writings on attention, the pleasure of waiting etc I feel you might like this one by


  6. Brutus.wordpress.com

    I am currently reading the book and am blogging my way through it. From that first-hand experience I can offer that McGilchrist provides considerable depth and support for his main thesis, contentious though it may be. Several bloggers have picked up YouTube videos featuring summaries and animations of the book and are thus responding to a radically encapsulated version of the whole, like reading only the book jacket. We all do it, of course, when deciding where to allocate our time and attention, but to dismiss the book outright and unread is rather silly.

    I’m prone to having my head turned by well-argued writing, and McGilchrist is pretty darn convincing. On a certain level, though, his take on human history arising out of brain structure and function leaves me wondering what to do with such a sophisticated understanding. Most shallow thinkers simply can’t understand it, and even deep thinkers may find it a little arbitrary, as though without practical application it has no force or power. It may well be only one of many ways of understanding and positioning ourselves in the world, though hardly one available for mass consumption.

  7. www.smarts-club.com

    The lecture – and the animation – is great. I was a bit confused, however, that he seems to dismiss the left-brain/right-brain categorization in the beginning just to reinvent it in the course of the talk.

    To me it is important to stress the double-access to the arts and sciences via the direct, ‘vegetative’ approach and the complex, analytical one.

    Maybe you find some time to read


    Thank you for your stimulating posts!

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