bicameralism   6

Most groundbreaking psychology text of the last decade?
Although I am only 110 pages in, I think the answer is Ian McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. The book is ridiculously well researched. The second chapter alone, where McGilchrist synthesizes an enormous amount of data concerning the functions of each respective hemisphere, has a staggering 525 endnotes, each citing one or more scientific studies. The scholarly work that went into this book is epic.

What drew me to the book was its Jaynesian thesis: the brain, and hence the mind, is fundamentally divided. McGilchrist basically argues that we can make sense of the history of human civilization in terms of how the left and right hemispheres functionally developed over time, with the right hemisphere being the “Master” and the left hemisphere being the “Emissary”. This idea of a master-slave relationship is more or less similar to the Jaynesian distinction between the god-complex and the human-complex, respectively. The rise of modernity occurred when the Emissary increasingly isolated itself from the Master, locking itself into a self-determined logical cage, viewing the world through an objective, mechanical lens.

Like I said, I am only 110 pages in. But this book has already stunned me in its scope and significance. We can no longer talk about brain function without recognizing the fundamental asymmetries between the left and right hemispheres.

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