What the other half doesn't know

At last! A book on neuroscience that is a thrilling read, philosophically astute and with wonderful science: Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

The running metaphor is the division between one worldview that is detail-attending, mechanistically-minded and self-interested; and another that is other-interested, whole-perceiving and expectant-of-newness. Both are invaluable, but they work as a dialectic, so one can come to dominate – the emissary can become the master, as the book title reflects.

The first half of the book is the brain science, exploring the workings of the two hemispheres, and the discovery that each appears to reflect a different worldview. The second half is a history of culture, examining in art and ideas how that might have played out in the world. And with potentially disastrous results, McGilchrist concludes…