Thursday, February 12, 2015

Whole Brains vs. Halfwits

We're in the midst of a discussion of the various domains within the brain-self-relationships trinity that need to be integrated in order for us to be "healthy" (or to have a whole in our heads). In short, if we wish to potentiate, we must integrate.

Next on Siegel's list is bilateral integration, or a harmonious relationship between the left and right hemispheres. These two rascals perceive the world and process information in very different ways.

As Petey has said on many occasions, "homosexual marriage" is impossible for the same reason it would be impossible to have two left (or two right) brains and still be fully human. Rather, our humanness emerges stereoscopically, so to speak, in the mindstage produced by their complementarity. To eliminate this fruitful complementarity is to render oneself barren.

It is quite interesting that our brains are set up in this heterospheric way. It seems to me that if God and nature went to all the trouble of lending us these two very different brains -- and sexes -- then we ought to pay attention.

Most of the time we don't notice the two hemispheres. I suppose this is no different than health in general, in that if we feel well, then our body becomes somewhat invisible. When we start to notice it -- as in pain, weakness, dysfunction -- then we know we have a problem.

Likewise, "When the two sides of the hemispheres work well together, there is no need to intentionally try to promote bilateral integration," because "it is already fully in place!" (Siegel; BTW, I dock him half a star for excessive use of the exclamation point. Has he no control over the grammatical enthusiasms of his right brain?).

So, much of the time the marriage between left and right is harmonious. However, "given the anatomic separation and unique dominance of these two modes of processing on either side of the brain, sometimes one side or the other can dominate in a person's ever-changing life" (ibid.). Or maybe one side will lag behind or run ahead of the other.

As it so happens, the nonverbal right brain does run ahead of the left in early infant development, with important consequences, since that is where un-verbalizable mind parasites will lodge themselves. Siegel has an interesting term for this: synaptic shadows. You could say that a mind parasite lives in the synaptic shadows, or that it is a synaptic shadow. Either way, they are not just in the mind, but etched into our hard drive. To be perfectly accurate, they will manifest in the brain, in the mind, and in relationships.

I don't know if we need to go into a great deal of detail, since we already covered this subject not too long ago we, in our discussion of McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary, the Master being the right hemisphere. The discussion seems to begin with this post. Let's see what we can yoink therefrom.

Hmm. The following all seems pretty sound to me, and is entirely consistent with the Interpersonal Neurobiology perspective. I'll try to condense it:

Perhaps the most provocative research finding is that our primary experience of the world is located in the right hemisphere, whereas our abstract "mapping" of this same world is located in the left.

Frankly, I don't think we need all this brain research to tell us something we all know -- that there is a primary, lived experience of the whole of reality, over which we superimpose an atomized grid of knowledge. In my autographed book for cheap I use the symbols (n) and (k) to distinguish the two. Not surprisingly, it turns out that there is a neural substrate for (n) and (k), but that doesn't mean that knowledge of either type can be reduced to neurology.

Rather, we begin with the principle of the Person, and it is not possible for a Person to incarnate in the absence of the "opponent processing" of the "divided" brain. But of course, the divided brain isn't really divided at all; or, to be perfectly accurate, it is divided so as to be united at a higher level. A non-divided brain couldn't possibly host the unitary person.

Yes, you could say the hemispheres are distinct but undivided, like a certain godhead we know. Which is why we don't (usually) subjectively feel as if we are two different persons. We are aware of the input from both sides, but there is something in us that usually unifies the two -- and it's not just "two," because, as McGilchrist explains, there is also a front-back structure in the brain, i.e., frontal to hindbrain, and a top-down one, i.e., cortex to mammalian to reptilian to Sharptonin brain.

In fact, perhaps only the left brain sees the brain as divided; indeed, McGilchrist points out that the right brain is able to take the perspective of the left into consideration, since it is part of the "whole," whereas the left cannot do this vis-a-vis the holism of the right.

It reminds me of how conservatives must deal with liberal arguments, since they permeate the culture, whereas it is possible for a liberal to live in an entirely friction-free cognitive world, since he must go out of his way to deeply understand the conservative point of view in a way that is unfiltered by the left wing hate machine.

Under the best of circumstances, we are all faced with this problem of integration, especially in the contemporary world, since there is a virtually infinite amount of data to consider, so much that no single person could ever literally integrate it all. Which is one of the main reasons left wing ideologues take refuge in their simplistic left brain fantasies of cognitive and social control. This is also what allows the typical low-information liberal voter to nurture his delusions of adequacy.

To cite one glaring example, when monohemispheriacs talk about the Republican "war on science," what they are mostly referring to is the conservative resistance to scientism. And the resistance to scientism comes partly from the right brain, which knows full well that scientism is not true because it cannot possibly be true. And it cannot be true because the right brain is precisely what mediates our connection to being as such. The right brain knows of what it speaks, even if it must express itself via the mythopoetic.

One doesn't have to be aware of brain research to understand why the fantasies of scientism are quite literally delusional. In every branch of science, the persistent application of purely "left brain" scientific methods has resulted in ambiguities that come back around to a right brain view of the world. This is the proper Circle of Being, whereby experience starts in the right, is broken down and categorized by the left, and then re-dreamt and integrated by the right. Reality doesn't just dream itself.

In physics, for example, we have the uncertainty principle, complementarity principle, and nonlocality. In logic we have Gödel, in math Cantor, in biology Rosen. Such "transformative developments," writes McGilchrist, "validate the world as given by the right hemisphere, not the left." No worldview can hope to be adequate without taking these fundamental orthoparadoxes into consideration.

I might add that in psychology we now have interpersonal neurobiology, which integrates anthropology, molecular biology, cognitive science, genetics, linguistics, neuroscience, physics, psychology, psychiatry, attachment, mathematics, computer science, sociology, and the Bo Diddley beat. To which the Raccoon adds cosmology, theology, philosophy, metaphysics, and the Bobby Blue Bland squall.

This cannot be accomplished by the left brain alone, since it is, as Siegel describes, too committed to the L modes of logical, linear, literal, and linguistic. The most important things obviously cannot be understood with mere logic, and to pretend otherwise is to be an unintegrated halfwit.


julie said...

In short, if we wish to potentiate, we must integrate.

No potentiation without integration!

mushroom said...

You know Joan is going to Tweet that.

It would make a nice bumpersticker.

mushroom said...

This is the proper Circle of Being, ... and then re-dreamt and integrated by the right. Reality doesn't just dream itself.

Your old men shall dream dreams.

Speaking of integration, I think you just integrated a couple of passage of Scripture I had never before put together: Joel 2:28-29 and 1 John 2:12-14. Neither is talking about different people of different ages. Cool.

Gagdad Bob said...

I was thinking too of Romans 8:19-23, about the whole cosmos groaning toward integration with the divine.

Paul Griffin said...

Hmm. I struggled with this a bit, mostly because I would not normally associate the left brain with delusional, dysfunctional ideas, but the whole post snapped into view when I thought to myself: what does the left brain want above all else? To. Be. In. Control.

The roaring lion seeks to devour ultimately out of fear that it will itself be devoured.

Gagdad Bob said...

Nothing whatsoever wrong with the left brain, only a left brain not integrated into the right. I go back to what Hartshorne says about one side of a complementarity being more fundamental than the other, even if we never see them apart.

julie said...

Paul, maybe another way to think of it is like the two different steering sticks for an RC car. One controls forward and back, the other left and right. Both sticks are needed to make the car go, but the forward-reverse stick is slightly more important, inasmuch as the car won't move at all without it. Conversely, without left and right it can only move in a straight line, absent any external influences.

julie said...

Or on the topic of separation-integration in general, I like to think of a big, undifferentiated mass of primordial soup. On the one hand, it contains everything, but on the other, because it is all just one thing it may as well be nothing. In order to be something, it must separate, reform, and re-integrate as an assortment of elements which can then be put together in different ways to form somethings worth anything.

Or yet again, think of a blobby mass of newly-shorn wool. In order to be made into a sweater, it must be cleansed, combed, spun into yarn, and woven back together. At the end, you still have "wool," and yet it has been transformed into something much more than what it was at the start.

Rick said...

Or perhaps, one provides the "how" and the other provides the "why".

Which is borrowed from Viktor Frankl's idea (paraprasing) that one can endure any "how" if he has a sufficient "why".

Magister said...

I think of Daniel 2, Nebudchadnezzar's dream of a man made of composite materials which Daniel understands as a figure of Neb's kingdom, which, due to internal differences, will fall apart.

Van Harvey said...

Heh.heh-heh, you said "monohemispheriacs".

Paul Griffin said...

Oh dear, I was writing in a bit of a hurry (and still am), so maybe I'm not thinking as clearly as I think I think today...

I can see how I left a bad impression of my impression (I'll stop, I promise) of the left brain. Let's try again:

My first sort of instinctive word associations when I think of the term "left brained" tend to be positive-feeling words along the lines of "logical," "calm," "rational," "stoic," "peaceful," whereas most of the things being discussed were not any of those things. Hence my initial sort of visceral dissonance with the topic at hand.

However, upon reflecting upon my baser nature, and how those things that I naturally associate with that side of my brain can be misused, I mused to myself that when things go wrong there, it is always about wanting to be in control. Other parts of my brain may have other defining desires, but that locus of logic and rationality wants nothing so much as to be in control over what happens to me. Whether I control that desire or that desire controls me is really the rub.

So maybe instead of a broad statement about the left brain, I could more easily say something like what we're already talking about, an unintegrated left brain wants badly to be (or at least to feel like it is) in control, and makes war on reality in order to achieve that goal.

Not sure if that is any better, but I need to get back to coding.

Gagdad Bob said...

Don't forget that left and right also need to be integrated with up & down, back & front, and others, so there's that to consider. It's as if any part can used for good or ill. And an unintegrated part is a sine qua non of illness.

julie said...

I'm suddenly reminded of an off-kilter gyroscope.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tou say you want a raccoonlution...

Magister said...

I've been impressed by the experience of raising kids that the development of their intelligence, and the coherence of what they learn with other things they learn, will be integrated or not to the extent it all floats on an emotional ocean that remains calm. Once you roil up the emotional underlayment of their lives, it's nearly impossible to build anything stable on top of it, let along wire anything together. This is what is so diabolical about much of our urban culture: it is designed to keep one's emotional life at a constant boil, so that the brain and the spirit lack the peace and the slack to build something with integrity and wholeness.

Magister said...

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

John Donne

BZ said...

In reference to: "To cite one glaring example, when monohemispheriacs talk about the Republican "war on science," what they are mostly referring to is the conservative resistance to scientism."

I read recently of a fellow named Russell Kirk, concluded the unifying idea of all types of "conservatives" was of "resistance to ideology".

Gagdad Bob said...

In an ideal world that would be the case.