There is something magnificent about the ambition of Iain McGilchrist’s book. It offers nothing less than an account of human nature and Western civilisation as outcomes of the competition between the human brain’s asymmetrical halves. Thus baldly described, the endeavour doubtless seems implausible at least. Before jumping to that conclusion, though, you should know that this is a beautifully written, erudite, fascinating and adventurous book. It embraces a prodigious range of enquiry, from neurology to psychology, from philosophy to primatology, from myth to history to literature. It goes from the microstructure of the brain to great epochs of Western civilisation, confidently and readably. One turns its five hundred pages – a further hundred are dense with notes and references in tiny print – as if it were an adventure story. And in one good sense it is. All the way through there is a single recurrent theme like a drumbeat, a theme McGilchrist thinks we urgently need to understand and do something about. It is that once we understand the structure and function of the brain, we see that the wrong half of it is in charge of our civilisation.
more from A C Grayling at Literary Review here.