Our Divided Brain: The Myth of Logic and the Logic of Myth

  • July 27, 2014 · 1:00 PM
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Our Divided Brain: The Myth of Logic and the Logic of Myth

We need a new mythology, however, this mythology must be at the service of the ideas, it must become a mythology of reason. Until we render the ideas aesthetic, that is, mythological, they will not be of any interest to the populace, and vice versa: until mythology has become reasonable, the philosopher has to be ashamed of it. Thus the enlightened and the unenlightened finally have to shake hands; mythology must become philosophical in order to make the people reasonable, and philosophy must turn mythological in order to make the philosophers sensuous. Then there prevails eternal unity among us. -(Essay, Holderlin)


In his youtube video Lain McGilchrist explores of some of the misconceptions about the nature of reason, the nature of intuition, the part they play in the creative process, and their impact on the divided nature of the brain. Why is the brain divided? In his book ‘The Master and his Emissary’, Iain McGilchrist argues that the left and right hemispheres each have a distinct ‘take’ on the world – most strikingly, the right hemisphere sees itself as connected to the world, whereas the left hemisphere stands aloof from it. This affects our understanding not just of language and reason, music and time, but of all living things: our bodies, ourselves and the world in which we live.


We need both hemispheres; the left hemisphere, however, has become so dominant that we are in danger of forgetting everything that makes us human. McGilchrist traces how the left hemisphere has grabbed more than its fair share of power, resulting in a society where a rigid and bureaucratic obsession with structure, narrow self-interest and a mechanistic view of the world hold sway, at an enormous cost to human happiness and the word around us.


Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and writer. Before he came to medicine, he was a literary scholar -- and his work on the brain is shaped by a deep questioning of the role of art and culture. As his official bio puts it: "He is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise -- the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains.”

Join Plato's Cave philosophers for an exploration of "our divided brain", logic, culture, art and myth. Before our meeting, post and read discussion comments; and be sure to check the files section for relevant documents.

-Steve, Plato's Cave Organizer



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  • Mike T.

    I have followed the debate between Ben, Jairo, and Katlaya with interest. It appears to me a clash of two worldviews (philosophies) with the underlying question being which of them is true. In other words, your typical duel to the death which is so popular with philosophers.
    My take on the discussion is (perhaps) a bit different. I'm not so much concerned with truth as I am with which worldview is a better fit for the "facts." Unfortunately, the answer seems to depend on which "facts" I look at. If I consider electromagnetic fields or the evolution of species, then Ben's philosophy is a good fit. However if I think of consciousness or free will, such ideas are natural in the worldviews of Jairo and Katlaya, but seem to squirm about uncomfortably in Ben's worldview (though we are sometimes promised that an explanation will be forthcoming shortly).
    To help me (and I hope other people) sort things out, I would like to make an impertinent request:

    1 · August 15

    • Ben Forbes G.

      Value-based positions can be judged right or wrong based on their consequences with maximal possible objectivity (especially in terms of demonstrably true facts about wellbeing versus suffering); this process is the empirical essence of the branch of philosophy known as ethics — and just because it is sometimes complex and contentious does not mean it should be ignorantly declared “impossible” and abandoned to subjective/solipsistic relativism or ostensibly dictated by some totalitarian theocratic “divine-command” authority or imagined that future lifetimes will supposedly magically metaphysically put things to rights.

      August 31

    • Rami K.

      Check http://www.meetup.com...­ and for all the humanists in the house, this happening http://www.meetup.com...­

      September 1

  • Jairo M.

    The Myth is that we have a brain that is our mind and our self. But the reality, according to Nagarjuna and Mr Hood, is that there is no self, and that we make the self up. http://www.meetup.com/PlatosCave/messages/boards/thread/46464792/80#[masked]

    August 30

  • Jairo M.

    The Pharma industry and dispensing doctors would have us think that all we are is the brain, and that it affects the mind, and that we don't have a soul, therefore no free will, so that we accept their treatments which often consists of drugs with still under study side effects to fix our problems that have been categorized and need to be periodically periodically revised to make sure everyone feels mentally unstable, and get our brain physically dependent for the rest of our brains lifespan.

    2 · August 3

    • Jairo M.

      When we die, we simply go to another body and we don't need to take memories of our previous lives because they aren't needed, we've got some memories in our "SkyDrive" {our data [memories] in the Cloud that transcends the bodily PCs and tablets} that we can access to perhaps remind us of our calling or mission, when we are very young, but then we don't need to access that anymore, as it tends to get in the way. Read more at http://www.meetup.com...­]

      August 25

    • Ben Forbes G.

      Based on what evidence (and what epistemic standards of evidence) is that demonstrably the most likely explanation? Or do you just want/prefer to believe it regardless of where the preponderance of all the best available evidence actually points?
      http://en.wikipedia.o...­

      August 29

  • Mike T.

    Would it be possible for the two sides to produce a rough and reasonably short summary of the assumptions which stand at the foundations of their worldviews? You can see the sort of thing I have in mind at my post "Tea with physicalism" at http://www.mdeetaylor.com/?p=385.
    The nice thing about setting out assumptions is that you can poke at them and ask questions. Such as: What makes this set of assumptions "better" than this set? Or: Can we modify this assumption to get a conclusion we want? In short, one can begin to treat different philosophies in a manner that begins to resemble the way one treats competing theories in physics.
    If it's possible to do such a thing, then an examination of the contrasting assumptions of the two worldviews, their defects and virtues, and their consequences might be a fit topic for Plato's Cave.

    1 · August 15

    • Katlaya

      Mike! I am just now finding this jewel among the gobbledygook of this whole thread. This is why I wish people would stop addressing this thread due to things getting missed that are super ideas!!! Let me get back to you on this one. It doesn't appear as if anyone has replied to you since you wrote this from what I'm viewing now.

      August 28

    • Katlaya

      Loved this article! Woo hoo!

      August 28

  • Jairo M.

    I don't know anything about the brain and I will not take sides, but I do sometimes wonder about the mythology of how it all began. You probably know the one in the beginning of the sacred literature. In the beginning Yahweh, or something like that, created this earth and planted us here.

    July 27, 2014

    • Katlaya

      Everyone is entitled to their perception until their perception begins to infringe on the rights of others. I think this is where we have lost it in this country. I agree with Ben on his last statements. If the church insists on inserting itself into the politics of this country, then I think their tax exempt status should be immediately if not sooner, removed.

      2 · August 28

    • Ben Forbes G.

      I agree, though I would add that all perceptions are not equally likely to be correct or equally well supported by evidence... Regarding taxation, religious organizations should not be allowed to automatically play by special unfair rules and should have to apply for, open their books to the IRS, and earn the privilege of any exemptions for "nonprofit" status which they actually deserve, just like any comparable secular organizations, with no double-standards... I also think that official political endorsements (which goes beyond commenting on issues), discrimination in employment policies, or sectarian charity services that discriminate against qualified recipients should be grounds for loss of exemption privileges.
      https://domdangerous.w...­

      1 · August 28

  • Jairo M.

    And then there is the revolution within Christianity itself. Actually dates back to when they started to standardize and attempt to unite and control it all under what became the Pope and the Catholic Church. There must have been hundreds of versions of what happened and what this guy Yeshua did and how to tie it to the Jewish Bible.
    Well, now with all this science and archeological technology there are new discoveries popping up, or being rediscovered.
    I am fond of those that say Jesus studied with Buddhists and Hinduists in India.

    August 15

    • Ben Forbes G.

      Cool, I'll respond there when I get the chance regarding some of the sorts of relativism you seem to be advocating...

      1 · August 23

    • Katlaya

      (giggle)

      August 23

  • Jairo M.

    This friendly debate and discussion is similar to the one Deepak Chopra had with the scientist and together they created a book and it is also in audio.
    Two bestselling authors first met in a televised Caltech debate on “the future of God,” one an articulate advocate for spirituality, the other a prominent physicist. This remarkable book is the product of that serendipitous encounter and the contentious—but respectful—clash of worldviews that grew along with their friendship. In War of the Worldviews these two great thinkers battle over the cosmos, evolution and life, the human brain, and God, probing the fundamental questions that define the human experience.

    August 15

    • Jairo M.

      Wow there are so many great discussions and threads going on. Right now I am focusing on the one Ben started to show the weaknesses of karma and reincarnation or something like that. Please take a look at that. But still so much to read here and there that here goes my summer. No more chances of going to the beach. Well, actually I should be able to use my hot spot and tablet or Nokia Lumia 2520 Windows RT out there as long as I can keep them charged and keep the sand off of them. Or if not the beach then perhaps somewhere quiet and cool outside.

      2 · August 22

    • Ben Forbes G.

      Reading/writing philosophy on the beach is my idea of a day well spent! :-)

      1 · August 22

  • Jairo M.

    One reason why there is an apparent conspiracy (subconsciously) against the "supernatural" and the " Age" and concepts under these which come from the Vedas, which means the Sciences, and Ayurveda, which means Science of Life, and the Subtle Body that individuated particle of consciousness often referred to as the immortal unborn soul, or spirit that gives life and will to bodies and brains, is because believing so requires we change our ways, but if we don't the planet will force us to.
    COWSPIRACY:

    August 14

    • Jairo M.

      COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. As eye-opening as Blackfish and as inspiring as An Inconvenient Truth, this shocking yet humorous documentary reveals the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet.

      August 14

    • Jairo M.

      Watch trailer of Cowspiracy http://www.tugg.com/e...­

      August 14

  • Jairo M.

    Wittgenstein: propositions of natural science “have nothing to do with philosophy” and “Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences” even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all” “There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical” Jairo says: In the same way, neuroscience is a non-philosophy; must exclude the metaphysical, hence it must deny the existence of the soul, rebirth, and in the end, the examined life.

    August 4

    • Katlaya

      August 12

    • Ben Forbes G.

      Science can proceed very eccentrically and idiosyncratically in the short term with regard to scientists motivations, feelings, inspirations, etc. but that does not negate the importance and success of rigorous scientific methods over the long run (especially falsificationism). "A Short History Of Nearly Everything" —by Bill Bryson is a great book to learn about the intellectual history of science and the idiosyncrasies and struggles of famous scientists.

      August 12

  • Jairo M.

    We have two brains, the left and the right hemispheres, somehow, someone is supposed to manage them.

    August 3

  • Jairo M.

    We have two brains, the left and the right hemispheres, somehow, someone is supposed to manage them.

    August 3

  • Mike T.

    In connection with this topic, I think the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/science/beyond-energy-matter-time-and-space.html in the NYTimes science section may be of interest. Also, in files I will post a copy (for a few days) of my story "Like a Duck." The theme is the disastrous collision of science with values outside science.

    2 · July 25, 2014

    • Swami

      Math. Did somebody say math?! Oh, I must check it out, then!... No, really; if you knew me, you would know!:)

      July 26, 2014

    • Swami

      'DOES MATH EXIST? (Is math discovered or invented?)'
      *Get the thread here!:
      http://www.meetup.com...­]

      July 31, 2014

  • Ben Forbes G.

    It was a stimulating discussion as usual and a very interesting topic, though perhaps it could have stayed a bit more tightly focused than it did at times.

    1 · July 27, 2014

    • Katlaya

      I might indicate here, also, that the symptom of middle aged "kids" in their thirties are now finding it difficult to move out of mom and dad's house. Kids just don't seem to have a clue about how to take care of themselves anymore. This is a dangerous place to be in our society. Yes, times are bad, economy is bad, but adults seemed to have a way of surviving on their own through the depression which was really much worse than now and with fewer avenues of government assistance. I find this trend much more worrisome than the right vs. left brain problem.

      July 31, 2014

    • Katlaya

      But then.... perhaps our brain size is as dynamic as our cycles of life.

      July 31, 2014

  • amanda m.

    If the left brain is getting dominant then how come the vast majority of the "people that run us" - the politicians can't do math?

    July 27, 2014

    • Jairo M.

      Interesting question. Maybe solving math problems requires a coordinated effort of both sides. I don't know, just a hunch, or something to investigate.

      1 · July 30, 2014

  • Veronica D.

    Sorry, I had something that came up at the last minute, or I would have joined you. I know it was good and can't wait to see everyone at the next meeting.

    1 · July 28, 2014

  • Katlaya

    I always love getting together. It's always a very inspiring time for me. Glad to meet all of you!

    1 · July 28, 2014

  • Lyds

    Nice meeting all of you...interesting conversation, thanks for having me :)

    1 · July 28, 2014

  • Rami K.

    About 25 minutes in Dale set our conversation on track: the need for myth was abandoned, the influence of personality was acknowledged, and the recognition of new reality was perceived.

    July 27, 2014

    • Veronica D.

      It must be me because I forgot about the meeting today!!! Friend came in from out of town. So sorry to miss the meeting!

      July 27, 2014

  • Alan G.

    I am coming anyway, even though the RSVPs are closed!

    1 · July 27, 2014

  • Jairo M.

    TED talk on brain stroke that disabled much of left hemisphere, and the insights gathered by the person with the stroke https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl1TLsOYahw

    July 27, 2014

  • Pamala C.

    I would like everyone to watch this Ted Talk about the divided brain. She is a neuroscientist who had a stroke and expresses what she learned from it. http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight

    July 26, 2014

  • Steve

    Science vs. the Humanities
    When Gov. Scott took office in FL, he disparaged the humanities as practically useless and proposed defunding them and promoting college STEM courses. The debate between Steven Pinker and Ian McGilchrist on that subject will likely be a central part of our discussion; so, please be sure to check out the following document in the files section if you have not already:

    Philosophy-Logic - Science and the Humanities

    1 · July 25, 2014

    • Jairo M.

      Wow, that's scary! Hoping that if that happens that math and science teachers at least be able to inspire students to look into the history and art of math and science. Give them the story behind the equations.

      July 25, 2014

    • Katlaya

      It always amazes me the ignorance that humanity will devolve to.

      July 26, 2014

  • Steve

    For a very good 12-minute summary or review of Iand McGilcrest's ideas watch this short video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFs9WO2B8uI

    2 · July 22, 2014

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