Those who have followed by blog for a while know that I have written quite a bit about the divided-brain model of Iain McGilchrist. I mentioned the book, Leonardo’s Brain, a few posts ago as providing confirmatory evidence for that model. I thought it worth while to go beyond that mere mention. The author, Leonard Shlain, a doctor, basically echoes McGilchrist. Early in his book he writes, “…one fact remains without doubt: Natural Selection [his avatar for evolution] designed each cortical hemisphere in the human brain to process dramatically different functions.” A few pages later, he writes,”The left brain, the seat of the ego and superego, defined itself as separate from the world…The right brain, in contrast, engages in holistic thinking, aware of its connections to everything else.”
Shlain has a narrower focus than McGilchrist, primarily exploring the role of the brain in creativity. Hence the role being played by Leonardo da Vinci, deemed by the author to be the most creative human being ever. He makes a pretty good case for this attribution. He differs somewhat from McGilchrist on the historical master hemisphere, pointing to the left as the dominant one. But he makes the same argument about how the two sides work together with the corpus callosum acting as a traffic cop. For the creativity of the right to emerge, “a disconnect must occur between the two.” I love these paragraphs:
For creativity to manifest itself, the right brain must free itself from the deadening hand of the inhibitory left brain and do its work, unimpeded and in private. Like radicals plotting a revolution, they must work out in secret out of the range of the left-brain conservatives.
Creativity is at its base a combination of fear and lust. Danger and sex are the fundamental processes that artists traditionally call upon to create a work of art. Of course, he or she is not aware that these are the root causes. Creativity begins with perceiving a pattern, a feature, or an alternative use for a common object. After recognizing something novel, the artist breaks down the observation into its component parts. This is primarily a left-brained function, reductionist and analytic. An artist will reassemble the pieces into (sic) a new and compelling manner that others will recognize as art. But the work of art must contain “passion.” It must be a work of “love.” . . Love is rooted in the right brain.
That’s enough for one sitting. Two scholars coming up with the same model of the brain and its consequences on individual and cultural behavior doesn’t necessarily prove that they are right about it. But it is too uncanny to ignore. The implications about us and the modern era are monumental.