Our two realities: Intuition and Rationality
What makes us so human? It is more than computational smarts: it is our brain’s two hemispheres and how utterly unalike they are.
It is no longer accepted theory that the two halves of the human brain, Left and Right, are contrasted by “expression versus logic.” Iain McGilchrist, Oxford psychiatrist and scholar, says they are different in the way they perceive the world. The Left hemisphere is dedicated to narrow focus, efficiency and task-at-hand. It hungers for precise data, the implicit and the obvious. The Right hemisphere sees a broader picture and the way things are interconnected. The Right drives speculation and synthesis.
The two halves balance each other within human sentience. We see the detail and postulate about possibilities. We can balance Reason and Intuition. We are both Kirk and Spock, and for good reason.
McGilchrist claims our brains relied on this necessary balance to advance humanity. He also says today’s life balance is shifted to the Left brain. We “live in a paradoxical world” favoring the Left and ignoring the Right. Modern life deluges us with detail which the Left craves. Our hurried lives are controlled by onerous, rules-based bureaucracies only the Left can parry. Our now-dominant Left society creates more data, more rules and more control.
The result may be a “paranoia in society.” The Right hemisphere starves, unable to express itself in an ever mundane, detail-oriented world.
Are we staggering away from our true nature?
A delightful RSA animation of McGilchrist’s lecture on the Divided Brain (12 minutes)
The Left , with its craving for reason, is a “faithful servant” utterly devoid of intuition. It can hammer a nail to a post, but it cannot design a building. Or understand why architecture is a marvelous thing.
McGilchrist quotes Einstein: “The Intuitive Mind is a sacred gift and the Rational Mind is a faithful servant.” It was Einstein’s speculation, not his computational superpowers, which led him to his many discoveries. Science leaps forward, innovation by innovation, discovery by discovery, always cultivated by Right brain curiosity
Have we become a society of clever dullards? Did we “create a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift?”