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River cascading over cliffs, air filled with spray.


Different aspects of the world come into being through the interaction of our brains with whatever it is that exists apart from ourselves...Without experiencing whatever it is, we would have nothing on which to ground our knowledge, so we have to experience it at some stage; but in order to know it, we have to ‘process’ experience.

Iain McGilchrist (2009)


McGilchrist’s expansive book has honourable difficulties, this quotation may help to show them. While his neuropsychology seems (a little too hypnotically) rigorous, sometimes the fundamental arguments are less sure. This may be that he allows words like experience to shift meaning, or it may be something more important. Consider an analogy: water (experience) is composed of oxygen (sensations) and hydrogen (mind). Sufficiently equipped we might indeed split the two elements, but then we would no longer have water (experience). Once we have water, we no longer have the gas. Only after the construction is there an experience - let alone any base for knowledge. Whatever the quotation’s ‘it’ may be, that ‘it’ can never be available to experience; Snow covered eastern Turkey from above. Other approaches to the idea of what stands before any idea, include the Hindu Brahmin. just as the water no longer has the properties of those one-time gases (as though we regarded the evanescent spray as oxygen). This is a profound circularity Circular pillars and arches under Glasgow's Central Station.
More on circular “explanations”.

which so easily traps us. McGilchrist’s ‘it’ cannot be a ground for anything. Kant tackled this circle, wrestling with how we can indicate, while saying nothing at all about, noumena. Bust of Peter Scott at the WWT reserve in southern Scotland. A page all about something we can say nothing at all about - Noumenon.

The Master and His Emissary first appeared in 2009, but with additions in 2018, this quote is from page 38 of that recent version published by Yale University Press. I may be being a little kind to McGilchrist for in such passages as this he does appear to be tying himself in knots over well considered matters. Much of that consideration comes from Hume and Kant so maybe he should not pass over those authors as lightly as he chooses to.

The photograph was taken where a river cascades over the great fault line on the junction of the tectonic plates of Europe and America as they meet at Thingvellir in Iceland

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 17th February 2024

Murphy on duty to this site