The Master and His Emissary, Part 1

For the last couple of months I have been slowly reading Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary. Slowly – because it is a big book, in more ways than one. I am only scratching at the surface of it – but the discussion of the left and right hemispheres is fascinating. As a leftie and the daughter of a leftie, I grew up with a lot of folk wisdom about the left hemisphere as being the faculty of reason and language while the right hemisphere is the domain of emotion and visual imagery. This, as McGilchrist shows, is false – both hemispheres are involved in each, just in different ways. The right provides us with the big picture, while the left is good at analysing details and specifics. In his RSA talk, McGilchrist gives an example of a bird to illustrate this – using its left hemisphere to focus on picking out tasty seeds from amongst the pebbles while the right hemisphere scans the area for possible danger. Both functions are vital, both sides need to talk to each other and, importantly, also listen to each other. In particular, the right hemisphere is connected to the physical world in a way that the left is not. And this can lead us into problems when the left forgets to pay attention to the right, which it is prone to do. I would really recommend watching this talk. I’ll be back to talk about the consequences for humanity for prioritising the left way of thinking over the right which is the subject of the second part of this book.

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One Response to The Master and His Emissary, Part 1

  1. Thanks Sarah. I’ve admired RSA work for many years. This talk, and your calling attention to it, is timely.

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