Very appropriate for this list. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbUHxC4wiWk>
Great brief lecture with a more enlightened interpretation of neuroscience
than usual. His views are very much in alignment with my own. Sort of the
antidote for Daniel Dennett:
"If you think of something like a mountain, it can be for a speculator a
source of wealth, for a sailor it can be a landmark, for a painter it might
be a many textured form, for the inhabitants of a land it might be the home
of the Gods. Which is the real mountain? There isn't a *real* mountain that
is separate from those different, ah, if you like, interactions of us with
the world. Science sort of suggests that there might be one, which is the
one in which we play the least part."
This is what I mean by multisense realism. The idea that realism is the
syzygy of various modes of experience - sensation, measurement, etc and
that there is no reality which is necessarily external to that universal
interaction. Not talking about human perception creating the universe, but
the universe as a layer cake of perceptual participation in both personal
modes and impersonalized experience.
McGilchrist goes on to remind us that the simplistic notions of hemispheric
modularity are exaggerations but that there are some interesting aspects of
lateralization of brains which go beyond myth and pop psychology. He
discusses how birds and other animals use their left hemisphere to focus on
what they already know is important while they use their right hemisphere
to remain generally vigilant, looking out for friends or predators, other
opportunities etc. Right = broad alertness, Left = focused attention.
At 10:35 he talks about how in humans the prefrontal lobes are up to 35% of
our brains, and that their function is to inhibit the other parts of the
brain, to stand aloof from ourselves for both Machiavellian exploitation
and empathic relation. Our ability to relate to ourselves as an outsider, I
would say is meta-awareness or 'consciousness'. (To feed back on this too
far would be 'self-consciousness' in which we identify with our projection
of the others perspective of ourselves, inviting what I would call an
'elliptically truncated neurotic infinite regress'.)
At 14:17 there are some good slides of drawings by split brain patients.
The center tree is with the left hemisphere only, and as he explains, this
is the pattern of left hemisphere awareness, literally truncating the other
half of any given figure. The right hand tree is with right hemisphere
only, notably more exuberant and unbound than the far left tree which was
drawn with both hemispheres. There are more detailed slides that follow to
illustrate the asymmetries between the hemispheres.
This fits well with what I have been trying to say about ACME and OMMM, the
propensity for us to favor one hemisphere's mode (both brain and planetary
hemisphere, figuratively speaking as the Western mind favors the Western
hemisphere, while Oriental philosophy favors the Eastern hemisphere). The
role played by denial in the left hemisphere patients rationalized
narratives about their nonsensical perceptions is useful to understand what
we are up against in trying to help people deprogram themselves from
Western style instrumental-reductionist thinking.
There is an excellent passage here beginning at 16:19:
"Newness of the right hemisphere makes it a devil's advocate. It's always
on the lookout for things that might be different from our expectations. It
sees things in context. It understands implicit meaning, metaphor, body
language, emotional expression of the face. It deals with an embodied
world, in which we stand embodied in relation to a world that is concrete.
It understands individuals not just categories. It actually has a *disposition
for the living rather than the mechanical*."
He goes on (17:45):
"The world of the left hemisphere, dependent on denotative language and
abstraction yields clarity and power to manipulate things that are known,
fixed, static, isolated, decontextualized, explicit, disembodied, general
in nature, but ultimately lifeless. The right hemisphere by contrast yields
a world of individual changing, evolving, interconnected, implicit,
incarnate, living beings within the context of the lived world."
He talks about how the left hemisphere buys a sense of perfection at a
price of a kind of emptiness or self-reference, and goes through some
interesting ways that hemisphere bias manifests in patients reasoning.
"Even rationality is grounded in a leap of intuition. There is no way you
can rationally prove that rationality is a good way to look at the world.
We intuit that it is very helpful....Reality is not linear, it is
curvilinear, and there is a conjunction of opposites that we use to
He concludes with the Einstein quote:
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful
servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has
forgotten the gift."
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