Critical Thinking & Decision-Making

ML192: Iain McGilchrist on The Matter with Things, The 4 Paths to Understanding & Answering The Big Questions

Discover the key differences between the left and right hemispheres and how they shape your view of the world, the 4 pathways to understanding - science, reason, intuition & imagination and how the big problems we face as humans are all related.
By Nasos Papadopoulose

Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist, former fellow of All Souls College Oxford, and author of The Master and His Emissary and The Matter with Things.

Who are we? What is the world? How can we understand consciousness, matter, space and time? Do we have a purpose? What is the divine? Our answers to these questions are important because our view of humanity and the world around us shapes what we do and how we live.

While our current perspective has allowed us to make remarkable progress in increasing our material wealth and extending our lifespans, the costs of this worldview are catching up with us, including the assault on nature and destruction of culture. What we need is a new way of thinking – one that takes the best of the progress we have made but restores the important values we seem to have lost.

Iain McGilchrist has taken on this challenge. In his new book The Matter with Things, which forms the basis for today’s conversation, Iain uses the disciplines of neurology, philosophy and physics to tackle the big questions and paint a new picture of humanity and the world.

In the episode, we speak about:

- The key differences between the left and right hemispheres and how they shape your view of the world
- The 4 pathways to understanding - science, reason, intuition & imagination
- How the big problems we face including the assault on Nature, destruction of Culture and dismissal of the Divine are all related

We also talk about the significance of morality, the nature of truth and beauty and the intersection of science and religion. This was a genuinely perspective shifting conversation that will change the way you look at yourself and the world around you.

Show Notes

  • Introducing Iain [01:10]
  • What is the connection between Iain’s two books “The Master and His Emissary” and “The Matter with Things”? [03:56]
  • How do the two brain hemispheres work together in helping us understand and navigate the world? [07:36]
  • How do the seven portals of knowledge relate to each other? In what ways is attention a moral act? [09:45]
  • What signs in today’s world demonstrate what a left hemisphere-dominated view looks like? [18:52]
  • How did Heraclitus and Parmenides shape the western world? [20:52]
  • How do the right left hemispheres relate to logos and mythos? [24:27]
  • How is science limited in our understanding of the world? Why is there a need to acknowledge these limitations? [28:46]
  • How are the four pathways of understanding – science, reason, intuition & imagination – related? [32:38]
  • How do the two modes of knowing apply to reason? Why is context crucial to reason? [36:01]
  • What is intuition? Why is there a notion that intuition is unreliable? [38:01]
  • What is imagination? How does it differ from fantasy? [44:54]
  • Why is imagination critical in science? [48:35]
  • How do the two hemispheres shape morality? [52:12]
  • How does Iain think about the dichotomies that currently dictate our existence? [58:15]
  • Why do we know less and live worse than the people before us? [01:02:32]
  • What is the hierarchy of values according to German philosopher Max Scheler? [01:10:37]
  • In inverting the pyramid of values, has money become our religion and the biggest means to live a fulfilling life? [01:15:20]
  • Why does Iain consider the chapter of his book on the sacred as the hardest thing he’s done in his life? [01:19:55]
  • How does understanding the hemispheres and the different modes of knowledge apply practically in our lives? [01:24:50]
  • Closing remarks [01:29:37]

Resources

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