EconTalk — Iain McGilchrist

On: The Divided Brain and the Master and His Emissary.

Episode: N/A

Date: April 2018

Background: Psychiatrist and author of “The Master and His Emissary”.

Key Subjects:

  • Our brain is divided into two different hemispheres because every living thing has to do two things:
    • Left hemisphere: get stuff and use, manipulate it = targeted, local, highly focal attention.
    • Right hemisphere: maintain continuous relations to the world = sustained, broad attention.
  • How we attend to things changes what we see and what there is in the world.
    • From neurology: two brain halves attend differently to the world.
    • From philosophy: if you attend differently to the world, you see something different.
  • Therefore, the two halves of the brain have different goals, values, preferences, and ways of being.
    • Left is good at analyzing, making systems, models, carrying out routine procedures.
    • Right is good at understanding the whole picture, patterns, context, interaction, meaning.
  • Culture, customs and habits can lead to dominance of one (left) hemisphere over another.
    • Rule-bound, rigid, hubristic.
  • We need both working together: going from right to left to right side of the brain.
    • Right: initial experience of the whole.
    • Left: breaks down the whole for processing of the parts.
    • Right: puts it back together in a way that provides meaning beyond the sum of the parts.
  • Derive meaning from paradoxes, patterns, relationships and flow.
    • Paradoxes can’t be explained by literal interpretation, they need to be understood as whole.
    • Importance of flow of patterns over time, the interconnectedness and relations among the parts.
  • Life is about competition as well as cooperation.

Leave a Reply