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Thursday, 3 November 2011

the divided brain

via brain pickings
  my summary of iain mcgilchrist - the divided brain & the making of the western world

ideas about our dividid brain have become unpopular 

- so to be clear - it is not true that - one side does reason and another does emotion - language is in the left hemisphere - visual imagery is in the right hemisphere yet this organ is profoundly divided and has got more so over evolution and is asymmetric (broader on right at back and on left at front) but bone within which contained is symmetrical 

- so why develop that way? birds and animals have divided brains also they use the left brain for narrow focused attention on things they already know are important (so a bird pecking seed) and use the right brain to be broadly vigilant (in the bird e.g. keeping an eye out for cats) and for making connections with the world (like mates)

- in humans it is similar but humans are different in terms of the frontal lobe whose job seems to be to inhibit rest of brain 

- standing back from immediacy this allows us to outwit others and to empathise

- this necessary distance allows us to stand back and do these things, rather than just react t

- the left hemisphere is used to grasp things, make tools, pin things in language down to do that we need a simplified version of reality which just takes the specific key things that matter to us

 -the right hemisphere is on the lookout for things that might be different from out expectations, it sees things in context, understands implicit meaning (metaphor, body language), individuals so ..... we need both hemispheres

- for imagination - for reason the world of the left hemisphere is dependent on de notative language and abstraction, this yields clarity and power to manipulate things that are known, fixed, static, isolated, decontextualised, explicit, general in nature 

- but ultimately lifeless and the world of the right hemisphere yields a world of individual, evolving, changing, interconnected, implicit, incarnate living beings in the context of the living world 

- but in the nature of things never fully graspable, never perfectly known and to this world it exists in a certain relationship, the knowledge that is mediated by the left hemisphere is within a closed system 

- it has the advantage of perfection bought at the price of emptiness so the two sides of the brain give us different versions of the world - and we obviously combine these in various ways we need to rely on certain things to manipulate the world (left brain) but for a broad understanding we need knowledge that comes from the right brain

- his (iain's) suggestion is that in the history of western culture things started with a balancing of these hemispheres but in each case drifted towards the left hemisphere's point of view now-a-days we live in a paradoxical world

- we pursue happiness and it leads to resentment, unhappiness, and and an explosion of mental illness - we pursued freedom but now live in a more monitored than ever world whilst our daily lives are subject to a network of small complicated rules that cover the surface of life and strangle freedom

- we have more and more information but get less and less able to use it to understand and be wise there is of course a paradoxical relationship between - adversity and fulfilment - restraint and freedom - knowledge of the parts and wisdom of the whole in the modern world we have prioritised what looks like a left hemisphere world

- virtual over the real - technical becomes important - bureaucracy flourishes but the picture is fragmented, there is a lot of uniqueness, the how has become subsumed in the what and the need for control leads to a paranoia in society why this shift? 

- 3 reasons
1) left hemisphere talk is very convincing as it shaves everything that doesn't fit with its model off - model is self consistent because its made itself so
2) left hemisphere is very vocal - controls the media (right doesn't have a voice)
3) all this becomes a hall of mirrors - more about what we know about what we know about what we know einstein said - "the intuitive mind is as sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant" we have created a society that honours the servant but has forgotten the gift

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