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In this episode we’re going to evaluate the evidence presented by psychiatrist and author Dr. Iain McGilchrist, from his extensive analysis of split-brain studies, that support a broader understanding of the mind and reality. One that pushes beyond the traditional reductionist materialist worldview, to include the implicit, the context dependent and the consciousness dependent.


He’s just released an epic two part book to clarify all of this, ‘The matter with things: Our brains, our delusions and the unmaking of the world’ in which he asks how we should understand consciousness, space, time and matter, given the apparent over-emphasis on Left hemisphere interpretation of the world. 

Iain is an associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford; he’s a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; a Consultant Emeritus of the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital, London; a former research Fellow in Neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, in Baltimore. And he now lives on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of North West Scotland.


He has published original research as well as original articles in papers and journals, including the British Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatry & Psychology, The BMJ, The Lancet, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times on topics in literature, medicine, psychiatry and philosophy. He has taken part in many radio and TV programmes and documentaries, including for the BBC, NPR, and ABC and also took part in a Canadian full-length feature film about his work called The Divided Brain. 

This interview was recorded at the start of last year, so the new book is not covered in so much detail. 

What we discuss in this episode:

00:00 In communication with the world itself 

06:30 Taking the implicit apart and out of context: disembodying it

12:00 John Cutting: noticing consequences of right hemisphere damage

14:40 The differences between the hemispheres shown in many studies

27:00 The Left Brain Interpreter: Denial and invention by the right hemisphere

29:15 Scientism: the belief that science can explain everything

30:48 Imagination and intuition in scientific discovery

31:45 You can’t measure some things like love and consciousness

33:10 Reason suggests there are immaterial things

34:30 Science refutes what it can’t explain rather than respecting the yet unexplained

36:30 The right hand grasps and the left hand explores

37:40 We only know about matter because of consciousness  

42:00 Navigating beyond materialism



55:00 Implications of the Observer Effect and Quantum Entanglement 

57:30 The world changes depending on your attention

58:00 Panpsychism on the up in Anglo-American Analytic philosophy: Galen Strawson and Christian De Quincy etc.

01:03:45 Some things are trans-rational like music and love

01:06:45 Like the phases of water, neither consciousness or matter is primary 

01:12:00 Could a computer have big picture left hemisphere reason?

01:14:00 Cells have intelligent novel reactions to the environment, genes store the map

01:19:00 Iain’s new book “The Matter with Things: Our brains, our delusions and the unmaking of the world

01:22:00 Why the drop in happiness despite a rise in standard of living?

01:25:45 The 3 scientifically proved secrets to health and happiness: Social connection, connection to nature, a sense of the sacred

01:29:00 Gene Twenge: problems assessing happiness

01:30:00 Unpacking the sacred: The tao that can be named cannot be the tao

01:36:00 Making the effort: learning to swim by jumping into the water

01:41:45 Science and the sacred are compatible




Iain McGilchrist “The Matter with Things: Our brains, our delusions, and the unmaking of the world”

Iain McGilchrist “Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty - Philosopher and neurologist

John Cutting - psychiatrist

George Gaylord Simpson - Paelontologist

Galen Strawson - Philosopher

Barbara McKintoch, molecular biologist

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