One of the books that I came across this year and that I highly recommend reading and thinking about seriously is The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
by Iain McGilChrist. I mentioned his book in a number of lectures at Acton University already and will discuss it briefly in my course on Friday on the Moral Imagination.
McGilChrist is a British philosopher and psychiatrist and his book is based on twenty years of research in neurology and how the left and right hemispheres interact with one other. Going beyond the popular discussion of right and left brain—i.e., the right is creative and the left is logical, McGilChrist argues the both sides interact with one another in more complex ways than is understood, but that they do have different roles.
The book’s title comes from a story told by Nietzsche of a kingdom with a wise and benevolent master who sent out his emissaries to help run the kingdom. One emissary came to believe that he could run the kingdom by himself and deposed the master. The Kingdom soon fell to ruin without the wisdom of the benevolent master was no longer their to rule.
Such is the case, he argues, with the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The right hemisphere is the master, wise and benevolent, concerned with meaning and the things that make us human–the left hemisphere is the emissary in service of the right. What has happened however, is that the left hemisphere has taken over and now shapes the way we rule the world–to our detriment.
The book is very rich but here is a short RSA Video of McGilchrist’s TED Talk where he gives a short summary of his work. I encourage you take the time to watch and look forward to discussing this in the Moral Imagination talk on Friday afternoon. Additionally, as a helpful resource with McGilchrist among other things I recommend taking a look at Mike Metzger’s Blog and signing up for his Monday Newsletter.