Parable of the Hemispheres
by John Woods
Copyright © John Woods, All
In 1980, I became interested in the connection between brain
function, human behavior, and human understanding. I believed and still
believe that it is both mysterious and wonderful that the brain can study
itself and use what it learns to its and our benefit. Out of that interest,
indeed, passion, came this paper. It reviews the research on how the right
and left hemispheres function and gives my synthesis of this research. I posit
that we can only understand how each half of the brain works in relation to
the other half. Further, I explain that by understanding how this organ
works, as described here, we can gain deep insights into the results of its
functioning, notably human behavior as well as all the ideas that spring from
this organ, from the spiritual to the scientific, and everything in between.
We can begin to see that all our ideas are the result of this organ
projecting itself into the world in innumerable contexts. We can begin to
appreciate that the brain is not designed to facilitate the survival of the
individual but the individual's subjective reality and sense of order.
Finally, we can see that our self-aware understanding of this has profound
survival consequences for us as individuals and as a species. I decided to
post this paper on my Web site because I would like to share these ideas with
others, who may find them as useful as I have.
- Parables and Brains The
introduction to the article
- Hemispheres An overview of the
origins of the research done on the asymmetrical processing of the left
and right hemispheres of the brain
- Split Brains A review of the
research into hemisphere function that comes from studying split brain
- Normal Brains and Single Hemispheres
A review of the research on hemisphere function derived from studying
normal brains and from chemically "turning off" one of the hemispheres
- Damaged Brains A review of the
research on hemisphere function that has come from studying people with
injuries of different sorts to the left and right hemispheres
- Right and Left Reality A set
of tables that summarize the results of the research on the left and
- Classifying Our Modes of Thought
A look at how different researchers and philosophers have classified the
two modes of thought and how these classifications connect up with what
the different processing of the two hemispheres
- Half Brain Role Reversals In
light of the research and the classifications of our modes of thought,
this section demonstrates how many of these classifications break down
as we look at what the research tells us about what the left and right
- Resolving the Role Reversals
This part provides an explanation of why these role reversals occur and
begin to show that we can only understand the functioning of one
hemisphere by connecting it with what the other half does. Without that
connection, our classifications break down. For example the
"rational" left hemisphere becomes irrational when not
connected to its right half partner.
- How Do the Hemispheres Work?
The part begins to explore a way to synthesize the research on the left
and right halves of the brain and how their functioning facilitates and
defines the understandings and behavior of human beings.
- A Satisfying
Synthesis of Conscious Brain Function Here I pull together all
the ideas presented so far into a synthesis that is consistent with the
research and with our understanding of human understanding and behavior.
It demonstrates that both halves of the brain actually take meaning from
understanding the relationship between the body and the world in which
the brain and body reside and, in fact, the brain is unable to
meaningfully separate out the body from the rest of the world and that
the whole idea of the self, as defined from the perspective of brain
function, is the sum of one's ordered relationships with the world.
Do you have comments or questions about this article? Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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