An exciting conversation with psychiatrist, philosopher and scholar Dr Iain McGilchrist, addressing how an over-emphasis on reductive materialism and “left-hemisphere” attention can affect how we understand the world and act in it. It will be set upon the backdrop of International Geneva, inviting institutions and initiatives seeking to address complex challenges such as public health, climate change, humanitarian crises, economic development, social justice, and peacebuilding.
A former Oxford Fellow and psychiatrist, Dr McGilchrist’s work spans the fields of neuroscience, epistemology, and metaphysics. He is a critic of reductive materialism, and holds that the mind and brain can only be understood in the broadest context – accounting for our physical and spiritual existence, as well as the wider culture in which they arise. He has given numerous seminars and lectures across the world, including the keynote speech at the 2022 World AI Summit, and engaged in public conversations with John Cleese, Philip Pullman, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, amongst others.
Dr McGilchrist has published two best-selling books about a fundamental duality in how we pay attention to the world and make sense of it.
He traces this to the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which bring two different perspectives on reality. He highlights a necessary tension between the left-hemisphere – which favours specific, explicit, linear, logical, focussed analysis – and the right, which mediates broader awareness, as well as relational, implicit, holistic reasoning and sense-making.
He posits that human history has seen moments of greater or lesser balance between these perspectives, and that we live in a particularly imbalanced time. He argues that the modern world’s over-emphasis on left-hemisphere attention can limit and bias our understanding of reality; this not only hampers our ability to tackle problems, but may cause further damage.
The aim of this conversation will be to share Dr McGilchrist’s insights with institutions, students, and researchers from International Geneva; critically reflect upon the mindset and frameworks through which we approach complex challenges; and explore what a more balanced approach might look like.
RSA ANIMATE: The Divided Brain