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Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Mary Midgley | guardian.co.uk
Pete Hulme
Jessica Crispin
A C Grayling |.Literary Review
ideasfestival.co.uk
Owen Flanagan

Iain McGilchrist

The Master and his Emissary

In The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World Iain McGilchrist puts forward the hypothesis that many of the problems of our society are due to 'left-hemisphere' thinking, which has supplanted the more balanced view of the right hemisphere.

McGilchrist explains the differences between the hemispheres, giving examples of the behavioural deficits produced by damage to each side. He goes on to look at the role of the two hemispheres in our use of language and in music and the arts. The second half of the book gives his version of history based upon which hemisphere was in the ascendant, moving from the Ancient world on to the Reformation and the Renaissance, then to the Enlightenment the Industrial Revolution, and the Romantic movement, and finally modernism and post-modernism.

It's a long book, and it was a struggle to read at times, but there's also a deeper problem. If you accept the hypothesis then it would explain why philosophy gets to be such an obscure subject - philosophers have good, right hemisphere ideas, but their expression by the left hemisphere corrupts them. However, McGilchrist doesn't see it that way - he seems to be a fan of some philosophers but not of others, and ends up with too much of the sort of wordy 'system building' which I felt he should be wary of. On the other hand, he certainly shows great breadth of knowledge, and the book does help you to see history and art in a different light - I just wouldn't take it too seriously.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 608 pages  
ISBN: 030014878X
Salesrank: 636845
Weight:2.6 lbs
Published: 2009 Yale University Press
Marketplace:New from $79.90:Used from $28.36
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 448 pages  
ISBN: 030014878X
Salesrank: 330061
Weight:2.6 lbs
Published: 2009 Yale University Press
Marketplace:New from £65.00:Used from £19.33
Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 608 pages  
ISBN: 030014878X
Salesrank: 316238
Weight:2.6 lbs
Published: 2009 Yale University Press
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 146.81:Used from CDN$ 70.59
Buy from Amazon.ca





Product Description

Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been puzzled over for centuries. In a book of unprecedented scope, Iain McGilchrist draws on a vast body of recent brain research, illustrated with case histories, to reveal that the difference is profound—not just this or that function, but two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world. 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 helps explain the origins of music and language, and casts new light on the history of philosophy, as well as on some mental illnesses.

In the second part of the book, McGilchrist takes the reader on a journey through the history of Western culture, illustrating the tension between these two worlds as revealed in the thought and belief of thinkers and artists, from Aeschylus to Magritte. He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences. This is truly a tour de force that should excite interest in a wide readership.