The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World


By (author) Iain McGilchrist

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Paperback $18.43
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 608 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 196mm x 36mm | 599g
  • Publication date: 2 November 2010
  • Publication City/Country: New Haven
  • ISBN 10: 0300168926
  • ISBN 13: 9780300168921
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: 15 colour images + 20 black-&-white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 17,197

Product description

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, he 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.

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Author information

Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, where he taught literature, before training in medicine. He has an interest in brain research, and now works privately in London, where he was a Consultant and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital.

Review quote

"'A landmark new book... It tells a story you need to hear, of where we live now.' Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times '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 scintillating intelligence is at work.' Economist 'This is a very remarkable book... I couldn't put it down.' Mary Midgley, The Guardian '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.' A. C. Grayling, Literary Review"