, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 119-124
Date: 18 Oct 2011

Iain McGilchrist, The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010)

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Besides being a brilliant work, this book is an event. McGilchrist lays out a startling, novel account of the importance of the right hemisphere of the brain, and what is more, he turns this into a gripping and dizzying account of the trajectory of the whole of human (but especially of western) civilisation and offers, in the course of this, the most powerful argument penned by any living author of the importance of the arts and humanities (including philosophy, properly understood, the social studies and ‘les sciences humaines’). This is an argument—helpfully, by a scientist—for how and why the arts and the humanities offer a quite different and hugely important way of visioning (and reclaiming) our world and for why we cannot rely on science to do this, because trusting science too much is the very root of the problem. The imperial takeover of the world by the scientistic world-picture that naturally emerges from the left hemisphere of the brain, once it is off the leash, is what is