He writes with depth and authority, having been both a psychiatrist and an English scholar.
The trope of the right brain as 'arty' and the left being 'linear' has proved so useful that so many people cant help but use this concept even when they think it might be scientifically dodgy.
So it is great to read this very interesting book.
Some things I have gleaned so far
- the right hemisphere looks at wholes, not parts - looking at parts to create an idea of the whole is the job of the left hand side.
- The right side processes novel information, even if it is in a discipline the left side usually processes . The left hand side processes things it already knows about, again even if it in a discipline the right side usually processes. So the practice of seeking new, stimulating ideas/pictures/music to keep your right side firing is a great practice. It seems the right gets activated when it sees unusual semantic forms - so the practice I have, and often use with students, of generating random concepts and then trying to design these randomly generated concepts is wonderfully rigorous! (Some university colleagues have looked at me askance when I use this technique as not being theoretically rigorous enough). I use the Inspiro app to generate images like the one above, not so much for the images themselves but to get me working in the right mode again after a break.
- The right makes connections across distantly related information. From my studies in complexity, I know that connecting distantly related information is more likely to produce novel concepts.
- Efforts of will to produce something means attention is focused and narrowed by this effort, which reduces right activity - whereas relaxing means broadening attention and thus engaging the right brain again.
- Most neurons become fatigued after working for a while,but the noradrenergic right brain neurons stimulated by novel experience DON'T get fatigued! Isn't that fabulous? The right is also able to use a larger working memory, holding more information together while working on processing.
"Goethe...warned against the tendency immediately to reduce observation to conception, thus losing the power of the object in all it's newness to help us break out of the otherwise unbreachable defences of our conceptual systems. He wrote that the student of nature 'should form to himself a method in accordance with observation, but he should be careful not to reduce observation to a mere concept, to substitute words for this concept, and to proceed to treat these words as if they were objects. '
"...we cannot rid ourselves of the value of beauty by a decision in theory [...] Nonetheless beauty has been effectively airbrushed out of the story of art, like a public figure that has fallen from favour in a brutal regime. Beauty is rarely mentioned in contemporary art critiques: in a reflection of the left hemisphere's values, a work is now conventionally praised as 'strong' or 'challenging', in the rhetoric of power, the only rhetoric in all our relations with the world and with one another that we are now permitted. "