The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

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Yale University Press, Dec 15, 2009 - History - 597 pages

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.

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User Review  - stevetempo - LibraryThing

This work is not for everyone, but I give my highest recommendation. If you have ever had an interest in the brain, consciousness, or how we all perceive and engage the world, this might your cup of ... Read full review

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User Review  - AlbertoGiuseppe - LibraryThing

A marvelous, herculean tome which points in the direction of how and where multidisciplinary studies could and should be heading in cogsci. and elsewhere. Even just the footnotes are a fountain of ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he taught literature before training in medicine. He was Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital, London, and has researched in neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. He now works privately in London and otherwise lives on the Isle of Skye.

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