The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist
The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

74%

5 Critic Reviews

McGilchrist's explanation of such oddities in terms of our divided nature is clear, penetrating, lively, thorough and fascinating.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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.

 

About Iain McGilchrist

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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.
 
Published December 15, 2009 by Yale University Press. 553 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Master and His Emissary
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Mary Midgley on Jan 01 2010

McGilchrist's explanation of such oddities in terms of our divided nature is clear, penetrating, lively, thorough and fascinating.

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Book Forum

Above average
Reviewed by Jonah Lehrer on Apr 01 2010

...generalizations obscure more than they reveal; the mind remains too mysterious to become an all-encompassing explanation for the past.

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The Gospel Coalition

Good
Reviewed by J. A. Van Gerpen on Feb 08 2013

McGilchrist’s breadth of knowledge is impressive, and The Master and His Emissary is accessible to the general reader.

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Literary Review

Above average
Reviewed by A C Grayling on Feb 08 2013

...it does not persuade one that returning our Western civilisation to the government of such supposed right-hemisphere possessions as religion and instinct would be anywhere near a good thing.

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Project MUSE

Above average
Reviewed by Randolph Roth on Apr 01 2011

McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary is a thought-provoking book that deserves a wide readership...

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Reader Rating for The Master and His Emissary
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