Hello! & a Question

  • Hello! & a Question

    Posted by Cooper North on October 8, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    Hello everyone! I recently finished The Matter With Things & I’m truly, beyond amazed. It really has, as I imagine it has for so many of you, changed my life. I was so moved that I just became a member!

    I’ve been recently going through the reception to Iain’s work, & I came across this, to put it frankly, rather bizarre review from Robert M. Ellis from the website/blog “Middle Way Society.” It was pasted, recently, on TMWT’s Wikipedia page, underneath “Criticism.” I’m curious to know what you make of his response, as (as I said) I found it odd… as if he read an entirely different book than most of us did. I’d love for a more philosophically-sophisticated perspective to comment on his “critique” as I certainly am not qualified, haha.

    Here’s a link to the review: https://www.middlewaysociety.org/the-matter-with-the-matter-with-things/

    James Willis replied 7 months, 1 week ago 4 Members · 19 Replies
  • 19 Replies
  • Eleanor Lundholm

    Member
    October 9, 2023 at 8:41 am

    Thank you for posting this fascinating review. Like you, I am astonished. Nonetheless it is interesting and instructive to read negative criticism, whether or not you agree with it. There is so much to digest that I need to read it again a few times before I can really collect my thoughts on it!

    • Cooper North

      Member
      October 9, 2023 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Eleanor,

      Thank you for your response! I agree, it’s wise to engage with all sorts of criticisms. I look forward to your thoughts on the critique! I posted, in a response to James, my initial musings on the review, if you’re interested to take a look.

      Very best,

      Cooper

  • James Willis

    Member
    October 9, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    Many congratulations if you actually finished this astonishingly self-confident critique. I tried to understand what he was so upset about but failed and gave up.<div>

    Probably my inadequacy, of which I am not proud, but I prefer to read material, such as Iain’s, which is clear about what it is trying to say. I had no trouble reading every word of TMWT and making notes all along the way.

    But at least you have intrigued me enough to bring me back to this site after a gap, and I am delighted to find that the response time overall has been much improved, making it much more usable than it was after the rebuild of a year or so ago.

    Best wishes, James (one of the fawning admirers this guy sneers at)

    </div>

    • Cooper North

      Member
      October 9, 2023 at 5:26 pm

      Hi James,

      Thank you for your response! I’m in agreement with you: the arrogance & self-confidence in the critique was truly alarming. His personal digs at Iain for “idealizing the past” (which, I’ve noticed, Iain certainly does not), combined with his lazy attempt at picking apart Iain’s defense of intuition (Iain has never claimed intuition is infallible, rather it’s grossly underrated), all while calling the work “bad” and even, “dangerous,” had me shocked & amused. Finally, given his absolute and total rejection of metaphysics as whole, it seems Ellis, in typical left-hemisphere-fashion, demonizes… ironically… the left hemisphere.

      Elllis writes, “metaphysics is a distinctively deluded left hemisphere construction, yet McGilchrist fails to face up to this contradiction. As a result, a large part of this book is self-deluded and contradictory.” I can theoretically see the thought process behind his conclusion, but it seems to me that Ellis missed the point: Iain’s metaphysics is born out of how the right hemisphere attends to the world… and then, Iain recruits the left hemisphere to communicate and articulate this view (in the form of the book), much like a good emissary serving his master.

      But this is how it appears to me. I’m well-aware I am amidst far, far greater minds than my own here at Channel McGilchrist, so I’m eager to get more opinions and perspectives!

      Very best,

      Cooper

      • James Willis

        Member
        October 9, 2023 at 6:30 pm

        Cooper – don’t be so modest – I think your comments are insightful and very helpful. And not just because I agree with them 🙂

        Another thing which strikes me about the critique is the irony of his saying repeatedly that Iain could have expressed himself in a fraction of the space, while being apparently blind to the extravagant length of his own contribution and the arrogance of expecting anyone to stick with its opaque argument.

        I think you will find yourself among friends here, although the frustrating thing is that the enormous scope of Iain’s material can lead discussions off in a myriad of specialist directions.

        • Cooper North

          Member
          October 9, 2023 at 7:11 pm

          Hi James,

          Thank you for the kind words! I’m currently only twenty-three years old, so I absolutely recognize I have a lot to learn, to put it mildly. Haha.

          But yes, that struck me too! Ellis’ frustration with TMWT‘s length was really amusing, meanwhile his own critique was ridiculously over-indulgent (his criticism of Iain not citing sources for lamenting the state of the modern world, as if it isn’t self-evident, is humorous).

          I will say, I’m certainly glad he recognizes the value of and supports the hemisphere hypothesis. He just loses me when it comes to his critique of the metaphysics and his immature digs at Iain, personally. Like you said, there’s a certain arrogance, a “my way is right” about his writing that I find alarming… as if he didn’t make much of an effort to engage open-mindedly with Iain’s philosophy (the same can be said for Raymond Tallis, unfortunately). Did he even reflect on his own ideas? Did he, for one second, think, “maybe I’ve under-valued the left hemisphere here?” I don’t know. But, it certainly makes for good conversation here! I’d give anything to hear Iain’s response to this article, especially considering Ellis and Iain have interacted in the past.

          But I’m thrilled to be here amongst friends! Honored to learn and grow around such great people.

          Best,

          Cooper

          • James Willis

            Member
            October 10, 2023 at 6:24 am

            Hi Cooper,

            I ordered my copies pre-publication and was reading them two (surely not three?) years ago. I remember it took me at least two months.

            So, you have stimulated me to revisit my pages and pages of notes, thoughts and extracts that I collected on an app called Evernote as I went along.

            Before I paste in one of these ‘thorts’ that I wrote down at the time, two other things:

            It strikes me that one problem with the critique you found (I can’t look up his name without jumping out of this reply!) is that he totally lacks the humility which is such a powerful feature of Iain’s thinking and writing.

            And – to be personal – I am astonished and very impressed indeed by your age. I hope it won’t put you off if I reveal that I will be 80 next month. I have a grandson only three years younger than you who is also very insightful and with whom I have occasional, precious exchanges.

            Here we go – my thort:

            //I find myself wary of putting my groping understanding of what Iain is trying to convey into discussion with other people who have their own ‘take’ – by which I know I will not be able to help being influenced. Particularly if I like and respect them!
            I want to keep my ‘take’ fluid for as long as I can and resist it becoming crystallised too soon. I know it will happen in the end. But it would be so easy for it to become crystallised wrong.
            The reading of the book for the first time is a precious and fragile experience – glorious and wonderful to be immersed in. As I am now. I don’t want this experience ever to end. Nobody can explain McGilchrist better than he is explaining himself at this moment. He has taken a lifetime to find the words to explain why, ultimately, nobody can ever find the words… But he is doing the best it is possible ever to imagine anyone achieving.//

            I don’t think Mr ___ ever opened his mind, cluttered as it is with his own ideas, to the immensely subtle construct Iain was trying to convey.

            Best wishes, James

            • Cooper North

              Member
              October 11, 2023 at 4:14 pm

              Hi James,

              Congratulations on the big eight-zero, & happy early-birthday to you! Thank you for the compliments in regards to my age! That means a lot, coming from someone as dignified such as yourself.

              In regards to the critique, I couldn’t agree more with you more. Ellis profoundly lacks the humility Iain has in spades, as well as his eloquence & way with words. Also, I think it’s worth addressing Iain’s magnum opus is a collaborative effort, in the sense that, being the true polymath Iain is, strings together a bountiful symphony of thoughts & ideas from some of humanity’s greatest thinkers, as well as his own. In my opinion, this is a massive advantage over thinkers like Ellis, who, it seems to me, completely lacks the breadth, scope, wisdom & knowledge.

              I’m reminded of, courtesy of Iain, the Dunning-Kruger effect. The more you think you know, the less you actually know, & so on. If I were Ellis, I’d give a pause for thought.

              Best wishes,

              Cooper

  • Eleanor Lundholm

    Member
    October 10, 2023 at 7:03 pm

    We three belong to the ranks, obviously, of those who are “not sufficiently alert to (the book’s) contradictions.” Thank goodness then for Mr Ellis’s concern here and his desire to alert us to them. He tells us that he writes “with a sense of painful duty”, fearful as he is that TMWT will be appropriated by the corrupt right.

    There seems a feverish sense of righteousness to this review. Nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone and Ellis is far, far more knowledgeable than I can ever hope to be in this realm. However, it is people like me that he seeks to save from McGilchrist’s “uncritically presented” and “impractical metaphysical philosophy”, accusing him of dogmatism and an inability to develop critical awareness. Huh? A pity then that he lacks McGilchrist’s clarity of writing style.

    He tells us that he is aware that readers of this review “may remain baffled” by his criticisms and suggests they refer to his own book “Absolutization” for clarification. Erm, I don’t think I’ll be doing this in a hurry, wearied as I am of trudging through this “load of near-incomprehensible waffle” (to quote Ellis himself on TMWT).

    To be fair, I think hidden in here might be some valid points (his reference to Popper’s views on the philosophy of science perhaps merit some investigation; perhaps also his discussion of McGilchrist’s supposed misuse of the terms induction and deduction), but his points are so woolly and laboured that I find myself totally lacking in any kind of inspiration to find out more.

    Which is a complete contrast to the effect that TMWT had, and continues to have, on me. As I see it also has had on you two. So I fear, Mr Ellis, you have a long way to go in your dutiful battle to save us all!

    • James Willis

      Member
      October 11, 2023 at 8:05 am

      Thank you, Eleanor, for this lovely post. You express my own thoughts perfectly.<div>

      What an interesting thread Cooper has started. Just the sort of discussion I always hoped to see on this platform.

      </div>

      • Cooper North

        Member
        October 11, 2023 at 4:24 pm

        Thank you, James! That’s incredibly kind of you to say!

    • Cooper North

      Member
      October 11, 2023 at 4:24 pm

      Hi Eleanor,

      Thank you for your wonderful & insightful response! I am in complete agreement. The “feverish sense of righteousness” is something both James & I have been discussing. James highlighted, especially when compared to Iain, Ellis’s staggering lack of humility. In my response to James, I remembered the Dunning-Kruger effect: the more you think you know, the less you actually know, & so on. Even though I lack the philosophy credentials Ellis boasts, still, his total lack of humility & self-righteousness clues me into suspecting I think the effect may apply to him here.

      I agree with you that there may be some interesting nuggets of good ideas here, as well. However, I think many of Ellis’s points are misunderstandings & mischaracterizations (namely his treatment of intuition, Iain’s “idealizing the past”, and his critique of “metaphysics”). If he had watched Iain’s dialogues with Alex, I think some of these would’ve been cleared up, especially the metaphysics, & the way the hemispheres relate. I must admit, my knowledge of Popper is extremely limited, but from what I know, I think a discussion of his ideas with Iain may be incredibly fruitful & insightful. I’d love to hear Iain’s take on it.

      Again, I appreciate your lovely response, Eleanor. I hope you have an excellent day!

      Best,

      Cooper

  • Eleanor Lundholm

    Member
    October 12, 2023 at 4:33 pm

    Hello James and Cooper. How lovely to be able to share the profound effects that reading TMWT has had. You did indeed start an interesting thread Cooper, as James said! I can relate to your “thort” James about when you were reading the book for the first time. A revelatory experience. The thing for me is that whilst I have read the book, I will never actually stop reading it. It is written in such a way that you can pick it up and read again any chapter, even at random, once you have a grasp of the whole thing. In this way, the concepts are always going round in my head such that I am able to relate them to everyday life, if you see what I mean! I also listen often to the discussions with Alex Gomez-Marin. I do not have a science background at all but have become very interested in physics since reading the book! I agree Cooper, that it would be interesting to have McGilchrist’s take on some of the issues we have been discussing. Have you considered submitting a question for the next Q&A session?

  • James Willis

    Member
    October 12, 2023 at 4:58 pm

    I think Cooper would submit an excellent question. Do let us know and I’ll be sure to tune in.

    • Cooper North

      Member
      October 12, 2023 at 5:08 pm

      Hi James & Eleanor,

      Happy to report I submitted a question, pertaining to this critique! Hopefully Iain addresses it in his next Q&A!

      We shall wait & see!

      Best,

      Cooper

  • Christina Florkowski

    Member
    October 16, 2023 at 2:22 am

    It really isn’t a surprise that McGilchrist’s theory is a challenge for some.

    I recently noticed that someone has created a Wiki page for ‘The Matter With Things’. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matter_with_Things. It features Ellis’s criticisms.

    My sense is that while it honors the appearance of neutrality, it leaves an overall dismissive tone.

    The same person who created that page also created a page for ‘The Master and His Emissary’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Master_and_His_Emissary

    It will be interesting to watch to see if anyone chooses to elaborate on these wiki articles.

    • Cooper North

      Member
      October 16, 2023 at 10:40 pm

      Hi Christina,

      You bring up an excellent point! I’d noticed the same thing – for both TMWT and TMAHE. That’s interesting that the same person created both pages… even more interesting than the “psuedo-neutral” tone, in my opinion. Makes one think, doesn’t it?

      I’m intrigued by the praise-criticism ratio on both pages: it seems (at least to me) that the Wiki creator is grasping & searching for any criticism of Iain’s work, in an attempt to sow doubt in those approaching his ideas for the first time. Hence why much of the praise for both works is largely absent, and seemingly more is written under thecriticism” sections.

      It relates to why I was surprised to see Robert M. Ellis’s critique featured there in the first place, given how (not to be rude, of course) obscure & minute of a thinker he is. He’s no Bernardo Kastrup or David Bentley Hart, is all I’m saying. I mean, to put him alongside the likes of Rowan Williams is just ridiculous, in my opinion.

      I’d love to alert Iain to this. Maybe for the next Q&A? I’d submit the question myself, but I’ve already submitted one, & I don’t want to overload him. Would you consider submitting it, Christina?

      Very best,

      Cooper

      • Christina Florkowski

        Member
        October 17, 2023 at 12:45 am

        Hi Cooper,
        If I didn’t already have a queue of my own questions I might. Though, if you only mean to alert Iain (rather than get a response) a message to the admin of this place should do it. There is a ‘contact us’ button on the left bar. There are so many questions submitted to the members Q&A that anything we can address elsewhere, we should.

        ~C

  • James Willis

    Member
    October 17, 2023 at 5:55 am

    The great thing about Wikipedia is that misleading entries can be edited. I did it myself once to remove a maliciously-named, invented item in a list of publications by another person I admired. I gave my reasons and my alteration must have been ratified by someone on the panel of volunteer scrutineers. But that was perhaps twenty years ago and I think there may be new restrictions on who can do this now.

    But that was a blatant case and from what you say here this sounds more subtle – and Wikipedia is no place to stage a debate. I agree someone should take this on, and perhaps cast doubt on the objectivity and/or balance of the two articles. But it would have to be someone who, unlike me, had the endurance to persist to the end of Ellis’ critique and get some grasp of what he is struggling to say. (Years ago, in my student days, I used to say that some who can’t express an idea clearly probably doesn’t understand it himself.)

    So I’m in favour of alerting someone, perhaps the channel administrators, to the fact that these two new articles, initiated recently by the same person, may be damaging to a true understanding of what Iain expresses so beautifully in his books.

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