RESOLVING THE ROLE REVERSALS
The above discussion seems to imply a kind of paradoxical situation at work when we attempt to classify what the hemispheres are doing in some kind of logical fashion. The classifications in light of the research seem to break down. And that was both the purpose of the discussion and is indeed to some degree the case. However, it was also a kind of linguistic, logical trick that I have promulgated. I did it to demonstrate the importance of appreciating that every definition carries with it a bundle of assumptions that, when dissociated from the definition, cause it to break down. In simple terms, if we say "up," that assumes there is a "down." One of these ideas has no meaning without the other. In other words, there has to be a perspective to give meaning to an idea, and when that perspective is lost, meanings become lost or twisted. The same seems to be true when we start making judgments about what one or the other hemispheres does when we detach those definitions from an understanding of what the other half does, or indeed, when we detach one hemisphere from the other.
What the research has actually shown about the functioning hemispheres is that we can properly associate some of these classifications with either the left and right hemispheres, but, and this a very important but, only in terms of expression or action for the left hemisphere or reception and perception of sensations for the right hemisphere. When you try to assign such classifications for hemisphere function in ways that assume, for example, both the ability to perceive the passage of time and sequential activity and the ability to abstract and freely sequence action in light of those perceptions by either hemisphere working by itself, the classifications discussed above will break down in one way or another.
The left hemisphere can do the abstracting and sequencing using language as its mode of operation, but it can't perceive sequence and the passage of time independent of language. The right hemisphere can do this perceiving of sequence and time, but it can't abstract out and freely sequence behavior in light of such perceptions. If it seems like there is a partnership here that requires differential ability in the two halves of the brain to give meaning to what each half, by its biologically endowed capabilities and limitations, cannot do for itself, that is my point. So keeping that in mind, let's go on to look at more research on the brain that will help us resolve this puzzle of how we manage to function so well with hemispheres that, left individually to their own devices, don't seem help us get along in the world so well at all.
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