Customer Review

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What it is to be human, 26 Sep 2010
This review is from: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Paperback)
This could well be an important book. It certainly has that feel. It's well written and documented with many references covering subjects like neurology, psychology, music, literature, philosophy and many more. This may also be what puts some off because the density of these can be overwhelming at times. However, if this does not put you off (and it certainly doesn't do that to me), the book is an absorbing and rewarding read.

It begins with a survey of research into the left and right brain hemispheres, and looking at how they interact with each other. It looks at brain research and the affect injuries have on people's cognitive, intellectual and artistic abilities, even pointing out how a tumour in the left brain "cured" a case of anorexia nervosa.

Then McGilchrist takes the reader into various human activities relating them to brain hemisphere research. For example he suggests music may be a right hemisphere activity, whilst some aspects of science may be more left hemisphere. Then in second half of the book he looks at how times in history might be seen as dominated by one hemisphere or the other, and suggests our own era may be too dominated by left-hemisphere.

Much of this is speculative, as McGilchrist readily admits several times in the course of the book. Yet he is certainly not uninformed on his subject or in the readings from many sources. Whether brain research is advanced enough, or not, to link the brain hemispheres to human activity, on another level this book is fascinating in the way it relates aspects of human behaviour to each others. It has an ambition and broadness of scope that sometimes seems rare nowadays, and this adds to its fascination.

Right or wrong, this book asks a lot of the right questions. At its heart is an enquiry into what makes us human, and for this alone it demands to be read. I'll leave readers to decide for themselves as to how much and where they agree or disagree with McGilchrist. Personally, I find a great deal that I do, and I suspect few will leave the book without finding that it has stimulated a great deal of thought.
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Graham Mummery
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Location: Sevenoaks, Kent England

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