The Master Betrayed #7
A series based on Iain McGilchrist's conclusions about a left brain dominated world
In the conclusion of Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary, the question is asked, “What would the left hemisphere’s world look like?” if the left hemisphere of the brain “became so far dominant that, at the phenomenological level, it managed more or less to suppress the right hemisphere’s world altogether”.
In this series of posts I’d like to break down his conclusion and discus just how closely our world is conforming to the left hemisphere’s perspective.
Philosophically, the world would be marked by fragmentation, appearing to its inhabitants as if a collection of bits and pieces apparently randomly thrown together; its organisation, and therefore meaning, would come only through what we added to it, through systems designed to maximise utility. Because the mechanical would be the model by which everything, including ourselves and the natural world, would be understood, people in such a society would find it hard to understand the higher values in Scheler’s hierarchy1 except in terms of ultimate utility, and there would be a derogation of such higher values, and cynicism about their status. Morality would come to be judged at best on the basis of utilitarian calculation, at worst on the basis of enlightened self-interest. (Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary)
Here we have another powerful vision of the world according to the left hemisphere that for all intents and purposes is upon us. The fragmentation is obvious, the atomising of everyone and everything, and incomprehensible without guidance as to how it all fits together for the sake of utility.
We won’t talk more about the mechanical model the left hemisphere relies on - we’ve covered that well enough.
But what of the higher values? What of the holy, the unholy, the transcendental and the intangible? Some, maybe many, would say we’ve evolved to discount such notions and are not values at all but mere superstitions that, if anything, held up a progressive society. Scheler’s hierarchy is turned on its head and the sensual values are primary and of highest value. If you speak of a creator God, you are ridiculed as primitive in intellect, myopic in outlook, dogmatic and closed minded. Any concept of the holy must be discarded as it brings with it notions of self-constraint, responsibility, sin, and something higher than self. There can be none of that for the full expression of the sensual, unrestrained, full expression of whatever it is that you want to be or do.
What if the dismissing and abandonment of the holy (in fact all of the top tiers of Scheler’s hierarchy) was a complete delusion of the left hemisphere? What if it has less to do with reality than it has to do with an over reliance on brain regions that are just not up to the task of embracing those aspects of reality?
There’s some more on the spirit and the left hemisphere here:
Chip in - what do you see?
Scheler’s hierarchy of values:
From lowest to highest these modalities (with their respective positive and corresponding negative dis-value forms) are as follows: sensual values of the agreeable and the disagreeable; vital values of the noble and vulgar; mental (psychic) values of the beautiful and ugly, right and wrong and truth and falsehood; and finally values of the Holy and Unholy of the Divine and Idols.