A common belief of the brain is that it is divided into two sites, hemispheres, and that they are entirely separate. Indeed, the “left / right” analogies offer a separation which suggests that people, and the world, are either A or B.
Psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist suggests that a co-existence between left and right occurs within all of us. The left hemisphere does not appreciate how much it depends on the right - although the right hemisphere appreciates that it needs the left. A right-hemisphere world would have room in it for the left hemisphere, and would be properly balanced, unlike a world of the left hemisphere. The concepts are explained in his latest book, The Master and his Emissary.
It argues that these two hemispheres are fundamental to human existence. They make possible the versions and interpretations of the world that otherwise would not exist. The differences between the two hemispheres are stark and are broadly accepted, although there is less known as to why they exist, and why they exist in the way that they do. The book argues that every type of function, whether emotional, linguistic, visual or anything else – is the product of both hemispheres, rather than the domain of one in essential isolation. McGilchrist admits to his surprise as to the correspondence that he has received on the back of the book's publication, suggesting that his thinking is untapping a need for an understanding of these hemispheres to be at least discussed, if not addressed. The RSA is planning a symposium for public and private organisations to debate these ideas, an activity that is perhaps symptomatic of a need to debate these ideas, in advance of perhaps a re-addressing of how we live out lives, and the implicit and explicit products that are made through them.
McGilchrist's forthcoming talk at Salon London will focus on only a few of these key points. "I always like talking to a new audience, and the whole subject of hemisphere difference is such a minefield, full of prejudice and misunderstanding. Yet it is of absolutely prime importance, because it casts light on why we think and behave in the way we do, and even helps to explain some of the more worrying features of the world we live in today."