• Whit Blauvelt

    May 3, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    McGilchrist’s personification of the two hemispheres helps put forward his hypothesis, but also may risk being taken too literally. The differences in their character — indeed in our character as constituted — become apparent when they are either physically divided, as by surgery, or one of them is suppressed or impaired, by injury, disease, electro-magnetic means, etc. The hemispheres are separate personae after split-brain surgery, as Sperry’s experiments showed. But for those of us with an intact corpus callosum, we are a single person, both to ourselves and to others.

    That said, the full use of language, given a typical brain (which is 90+% of us, but not everyone), requires the left hemisphere. So the degree to which we view ourselves and our world solely through language, leaving aside vision, feeling, and the more artistic and metaphorical ways where right hemisphere capabilities are stronger, we risk becoming less than our fullest selves.

    But it’s not, for those of us with intact corpus callosums who do not have multiple personality disorder, a matter of two separate selves. We are single selves, blended from capabilities arrayed between the two hemispheres. It’s a question of the balance and harmony in that array. Particularly in regards to language, through which we receive our assignments, our orders for school and work, do we often take it too far and become disordered by it? Freud thought so, when we internalize the boss’s orders, producing the “super ego.” Freud also thought that repression happens when we don’t allow nonverbal comprehensions to gain access to words — which he viewed as the key factor in “neurosis.”

    I hasten to add that, like McGilchrist, I have serious reservations about Freud. But I do wonder if the problem of relations between the hemispheres largely comes down the the problem of relations between our nonverbal and verbal mental “contents.”