The Divided Brain: Iain McGilchrist's new ebook explains 'why we are so unhappy'
Monday, 16 July 2012
In his new short ebook The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning author and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist asks why - despite the vast increase in material well-being - people are less happy today than they were half a century ago. McGilchrist probes the idea that the division between the two hemispheres of the brain has a critical effect on how we see and understand the world around us. Accessible to readers who haven't yet read McGilchrist's bestselling The Master and His Emissary as well as those who have, this is a fascinating, thought-provoking essay that delves to the very heart of what it means to be human.
Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and former Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal & Maudsley Hospital, London. He has published original articles and research papers in a wide range of publications on topics in literature, medicine and psychiatry. He began his academic career as a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, teaching English literature. He published a book, Against Criticism
, which tried to articulate his misgivings about the academic study of literature, in particular the neglect of the way in which we as individual, embodied beings encounter the unique, incarnate work of art. In an attempt to get a better immediate understanding of ‘the mind/body problem’, he studied philosophy, trained in medicine, and became a psychiatrist.
He has published original articles in a wide range of papers and journals on topics in literature, medicine and psychiatry, has published original research on neuroimaging in schizophrenia, the phenomenology of schizophrenia, and other topics, and contributed to TV documentaries.
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.