Again, I apologize for the erratic posting schedule, but this time I do have a reason. As I was composing my to-be-my-next post, I realized that I was almost certainly misinterpreting McGilchrist’s work. I had been reading his new book, but only casually because I found it so daunting. But as I started to read it more closely, I realized it offered more clarity for some of the issues I was concerned about. Nothing much new about the general differences in the way the two hemispheres attend to the world and produce subsequent actions, but lots more about how they interact. And that is just where I have been in developing my taxonomy of distinctive behaviors. The way we act at any moment does depend on the way the two interact, particularly, which hemisphere has the “last word” in determining the outcome that shows up. The importance of inhibition has become clearer as it metaphorically does preserve that “last word” for the side that ultimately controls. The right-hemisphere is always the last in the process, but not necessarily the master. This suggests that the penultimate step is critical in determining the act.
Aside from this, I have been tuning into a long, highly twisted conversation on one of my list-servers devoted to”sustainable consumption” (if anything could be named thus). The central argument is that it will take a change in people’s “life style” for anything significant to happen, and, further, it is questionable whether such a change is possible. Various theories of human nature and psychology are being put forward, but all rest on the “standard” model that has been around since the Greek era. I have tried to add the divided-brain-model to the thread but to little or no avail. It really is very hard to get people to stop and back off far enough to see how much they are stuck in their left-brains. It is clear from this particular conversation that the more one has deepened their area of expertise, the harder it is even to get them to see/hear the possibility that there might be another way to view the issue/situation/problem.
They would agree that the brain is deeply involved in shaping human behaviors, and, relatedly, the way we think is important. But they think they know how that process produces our behavioral “lifestyles.” Going “meta” and thinking about the way we think seems pretty obvious as a critical step, but is hidden by the barrage of words composed by the collective left-hemisphere that is sure it has the answer, but can’t quite put it into words yet. Other cultures in time and place point to alternate “lifestyles” that suggest that different ways of thinking and acting are indeed possible. McGilchrist’s work stands out as another very different kind of signpost that our limited, but deeply ingrained, view of the way we think is only partial. It is not that it is wrong, but it is limited in being able to reveal a more truthful picture of ourselves to ourselves. I have all but given up in engaging with this community which seems to have gotten so stuck in a circular argument that there is no real shot at getting a hearing, much less a serious examination of the possibility that we need to start to think very carefully about the way er think we think.
I often use the Toyota Production System as a practical example of a system of inquiry that forces those involved to go “meta” and question the presuppositions that have locked them into a way of thinking that misses finding the root causes of whatever problems have been stymieing them. It is very simple, but very powerful. Just keep asking why until you come to a place where you cannot go further. In this instance, the process would eventually get you to something like “because that’s the way we think.” My colleagues stop there, but that’s the problem. Another iteration or two might lead you to questioning the way you think we think, and, then, given the work of McGilchrist, you can, at least, try out a different model. For me, that has produced an opening into the world I had not discovered. Now in that new world, many former puzzles have been unscrambled and new possibilities abound. I do not know if this is the ultimate end of the inquiry, but I do not worry because there is quite enough now on my plate to occupy the rest of my very, very long life.