The new page is a remix of all my blog posts about McGilchrist’s (@divided_brain) and @Downes’ ideas on recognizing: https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/recognizing-2/
I’ve been trying to work through my thoughts on this page (in a very Downesian pedagogical way) and I think that the Connectivist implication are more important than the McGilchrist (and maybe one source of my Neurobollocks reflex).
The right / left distinction, while not incorrect, distracts from other more salient aspects like learning. First, the localized functions throughout the whole brain link together in various weak or strong and proximal or distal connections to enable our thoughts and actions. Yes, the proximity of connections within each hemisphere have an effect, but how we learn to put it all together makes us more than the sum of our incompatible parts. Lateralization is an aspects of localization, but how we learn to act involves the whole brain in ways that make learning more important.
Second, this type of focus obscures the primacy of culture and context; that we are always responding and interacting with our environment and that environment is nothing but a collection of human artifacts. I love walking in nature, but I’m very conscious that I’m in a park (a human construct), not a natural wilderness and my thoughts (like the lack of fear) reflect that context. If we find ourselves functioning in either an Emissary or Master mode of action, it likely reflects environmental cues more than hemispheric dominance.
Thirdly, the primacy of dialogue in learning with and through other people (think of Vygotsky’s model of infant and caregiver interactions) might even be one sources of our ideas about hemispheric lateralization. I believe that once we begin to form connections through dialogic interactions, these patterns of connecting tend to persist and lead us to easily think in polarized and dialogical ways. (How we tend to posit 2 points of thought and think all reality as existing between them.) When I think of Artificial Intelligence, I often wonder what aspect of thought will be considered limited based on our biology. Dialogic thought is one possibility. Paraphrasing Martin Buber’s opening to the I Thou, (which I have always read sarcastically):The world is multifaceted, but only a fool give someone three choices. The wise man gives only two choices, one that obviously good and one that is obviously evil.
Thank you Howard for the very challenging comments. If you miss the emphasis on culture, this is not the fault of McGilchrist’s book (whose entire second half focusses on this) but my own fault because I deliberately refocussed on the mental aspects.
I agree that the interplay between the two modes resembles a dialogue. But this need not mean that our human dialogues shape our guesses about the brain. I think it is the other way around: the recognition mechanisms inherently display this pattern of question and answer: When we see something new, we ask ‘Do I recognize it?’. If the response is ‘No’ there are still some connections strengthened and so our learning is incremented. Therefore I think that our dialogues mimick this recognition. (Unless the impression of recognition itself is an illusion shaped by dialogues? But it is experienced even for almost forgotten olfactory perceptions which are rather dissimilar to spoken or gaze dialogues.)
When your thoughts reflect the fearless context of a park, I think the heritage of coping with fear is still at work because this has created the broad circumvision of the ‘master’ mode, as the book convincingly shows, and you can now enjoy it without fear.
Matthias; thanks for the additional clarification as well as the thought provoking original post; and I definitely will look deeper for McGilchrist’s cultural connections.
More reactions: by Stephen Downes on OLDaily, and by Roy Williams on his wiki. Many thanks!
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