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The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World Paperback – Nov 2 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (Nov. 2 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300168926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300168921
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #293,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"'A landmark new book... It tells a story you need to hear, of where we live now.' Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times 'A giant in his vital field shows convincingly that the degeneracy of the West springs from our failure to manage the binary division of our brains.' Book of the Year choice, David Cox, Evening Standard 'A scintillating intelligence is at work.' Economist 'This is a very remarkable book... I couldn't put it down.' Mary Midgley, The Guardian 'A beautifully written, erudite, fascinating, and adventurous book. It goes from the microstructure of the brain to great epochs of Western civilisation, confidently and readably.' A. C. Grayling, Literary Review"

About the Author

Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he taught literature before training in medicine. He was Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital, London, and has researched in neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. He now works privately in London and otherwise lives on the Isle of Skye.

Customer Reviews

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Anchusa on Dec 28 2011
Format: Paperback
Finally getting to the end of it. Hard going for me but immensely rewarding. The range of topics discussed, examined under the same set of ideas about the communication within the brain and relation to the world of direct perception is truly impressive and seems very thorough and well understood and articulated. Sometimes I felt the author was stretching the basic thread of argument to breaking point but it never quite broke. And there were a couple of philosophical points that could have been considered but were not.
As a student of Buddhism and meditation the whole range of discussions about modes of perception and categorization of perception and the back and forth between re-presentation(categorization) and basic perception was very clarifying of many Buddhist ideas and very provocative considered in the view of meditation and what that discipline does or hopes to achieve. So, I hope some of the current day Buddhist authors writing about science and Buddhism come across this book and take the time to read it thoroughly.
The book is slightly overwhelming in the range and depth of erudition displayed. I have marked many places for rereading, contemplation and further reading.
A truly admirable book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Jan. 17 2013
Format: Paperback
Note: The terms "master" and "emissary" as well as their correlations with the nature and extent of the "divided brain" are best explained in context, within Iain McGilchrist's lively and eloquent narrative.

As I began to read this book and Iain McGilchrist's discussion of the "divided" brain, I was reminded of Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Whereas she notes the significant differences between extroverted and introverted individuals, McGilchrist suggests that there are two hemispheres in each person's brain that seem to "coexist together on a daily basis, but have fundamentally different sets of values, and therefore priorities [as do extroverts and introverts], which means that over the long term they are likely to come into conflict. Although each is crucially important, and delivers valuable aspects of the human condition, and though each needs the other for different purposes, they seem destined to pull apart."

This is generally referred to as a "left brain/right brain" dichotomy or conflict. Both are "hugely valuable," according to McGilchrist, "but they stand in opposition to one another, and need to be kept apart from one another -- hence the bihemispheric structure of the brain."

If I understand Cain correctly (and I may not), she suggests that there are significant differences between two personality types: those who are either primarily introverted or primarily extroverted. Whichever is subordinate nonetheless co-exists in natural balance unless provoked into conflict by remarkably durable misconceptions of what is “normal.” For example, that introverts are by nature shy, retiring, insecure, and reserved (if not anti-social) and therefore cannot be effective leaders.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Profound but not the type of book you can just breeze through. Lots of wonderful words from an English professor you might not of heard before like "equipoise".

I cheated a bit and skimmed through the first section except for chapter 3 and read all of the second section. Now I am plowing though the first section and will reread the second.
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