From Publishers Weekly
A U.K. mental health consultant and clinical director with a background in literature, McGilchrist attempts to synthesize his two areas of expertise, arguing that the "divided and asymmetrical nature" of the human brain is reflected in the history of Western culture. Part I, The Divided Brain, lays the groundwork for his thesis, examining two lobes' significantly different features (structure, sensitivity to hormones, etc.) and separate functions (the left hemisphere is concerned with "what," the right with "how"). He suggests that music, "ultimately... the communication of emotion," is the "ancestor of language," arising largely in the right hemisphere while "the culture of the written word tends inevitably toward the predominantly left hemisphere." More controversially, McGilchrist argues that "there is no such thing as the brain" as such, only the brain as we perceive it; this leads him to conclude that different periods of Western civilization (from the Homeric epoch to the present), one or the other hemisphere has predominated, defining "consistent ways of being that persist" through time. This densely argued book is aimed at an academic crowd, is notable for its sweep but a stretch in terms of a uniting thesis.
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"A landmark new book... It tells a story you need to hear, of where we live now." (Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times) "A very remarkable book... McGilchrist, who is both an experienced psychiatrist and a shrewd philosopher, looks at the relation between our two brain-hemispheres in a new light, not just as an interesting neurological problem but as a crucial shaping factor in our culture... splendidly thought-provoking... I couldn't put it down." (Mary Midgley, The Guardian) "A giant in his vital field shows convincingly that the degeneracy of the West springs from our failure to manage the binary division of our brains." (Book of the Year choice, David Cox, Evening Standard) "A beautifully written, erudite, fascinating, and adventurous book. It goes from the microstructure of the brain to great epochs of Western civilisation, confidently and readably. One turns its five hundred pages... as if it were an adventure story." (A. C. Grayling, Literary Review) "To call Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary... an account of brain hemispheres is to woefully misrepresent its range. McGilchrist persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative 'master', the right." (Salley Vicker, The Guardian) "McGilchrist, for whom certainty is the greatest of illusions, has produced an absolutely convincing narrative of who we are." (Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph) Named one of the best books of 2010 by (The Guardian)"