Praise for The Matter With Things
This is the most extraordinary book. It’s got evidence on every page of a mind that is stocked so richly and has meditated so long and so clearly on the most important subject we can face. I can’t recommend it enough: it’s an astonishing book, that will change many, many people’s lives.
‘I loved The Master and his Emissary: this is even deeper.‘
It’s very simple: this is one of the most important books ever published. And, yes, I do mean ever. It is a thrilling exposition of the nature of reality, and a devastating repudiation of the strident, banal orthodoxy that says it is childish and disreputable to believe that the world is alive with wonder and mystery. For McGilchrist the universe is a constantly evolving symphony – a gradual unfolding of an epic story. We urgently need to attune our ears to this music – to re-enchant the world and ourselves, and to confound those who say that there is only noise.
No one else could have written this book. McGilchrist’s range is as vast as the subject – which is everything – demands. He is impeccably rigorous, fearlessly honest, and compellingly readable. Put everything else aside. Read this now to know what sort of creature you are and what sort of place you inhabit.
The Matter with Things is a work of remarkable inspiration and erudition, written with the soul and subtlety of a poet, the precision of a philosopher, and the no- nonsense grounding of a true scientist. In its pages, neuropsychology comes into conversation with philosophy, physics with poetry. Its author shows not just how our divided mind and brain makes us human, but how this gives us the potential both to understand and to misunderstand the world.
Iain McGilchrist’s book considers both great sources of awe and admiration: the starry heavens above as well as the mental life within. The author first offers intertwined analyses of brain function, cognition, and the structure of knowledge. Then he climbs his three-fold cord to a place from which one can survey the ultimate mysteries—the relationship of mind to matter, the concept of life, the contested role of purpose in the universe, and the nature of the sacred. McGilchrist is the most generous and talented of writers: his fluid account, brilliantly and beautifully argued—and meticulously researched—brings us along with him, step by step, until we too can discern the horizons of a reconfigured world.
McGilchrist’s appreciation of ambiguity and paradox only enhances the clarity and vitality of his thought. This is a book of surpassing, even world-historical ambition, and—still more rare—one that delivers on its promise.’
A magnificent achievement. The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist’s earlier tour de force, ranks as a game-changer. It doesn’t so much undermine common understandings of rationality as reframe them. The Matter with Things builds on that foundation, confirming the author’s status as a leading contemporary polymath. With rarely matched clarity as well as deep learning, McGilchrist demonstrates not just that there is more to the world than matter, but also that there is more to matter itself than grasped by the shallow materialisms of our age.
In The Matter with Things, Iain McGilchrist confirms his place among the rare voices of sanity with whom we are blessed. For me, that puts him in the company of Gregory Bateson, Mary Midgley, Paul Feyerabend, Jan Zwicky, William James, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Val Plumwood, D.W. Winnicott and Michel de Montaigne. I hope the world will listen.
‘If we draw only on the left side of the brain, our culture paints a narrow picture composed via the hyper-specialism which bedevils contemporary intellectual life. In this sorry state, we badly need that now-almost-vanishingly rare personage, the true polymath. In Iain McGilchrist, in the nick of time, we have one. In this book, he draws quite magnificently on his post-disciplinary erudition precisely to explain how very much we lose when we draw only on the left hemisphere.
If you want to understand why curiosity is in vogue but wonder is not; or why we aim directly at happiness and in doing so ineluctably become less happy; or why we like to talk about ‘the environment’ while Nature, upon which we utterly depend, we quietly desecrate; if you yearn to comprehend and question the rise of a desperate clinging to ‘identity’ within both the Left and the Right of politics; or if the way our civilisation tends to model human beings as machines disturbs or hurts you, then please read this book; for it sheds a profound light on these and so many other literally vital questions. If it were widely heeded, then perhaps, even at this late hour, our civilisation’s merry march to a slow and brutal suicide might be halted. For this book is that most valuable of possible books: The Matter With Things is nothing less than a work of genius, diagnosing our dire predicament in full, and offering a way, instead.’
Iain McGilchrist is leading a quiet but far-reaching revolution in the understanding of who we are as human beings, one with potentially momentous consequences for many of the preoccupations – from ecology and health care to economics and artificial intelligence – that weigh on our present and darken our future …McGilchrist turns to the resources at our disposal for correcting this imbalance. These resources, primarily philosophical and spiritual, are deployed to encourage us to ‘reconceive our world, our reality’, to ‘learn again to see’ … this means engaging at length and at a high level of abstract argument with competing philosophical theories of truth, rationality, knowledge, perception and being. For philosophically-trained readers, those at least who would adhere to Friedrich Waismann’s conviction that “at the heart of any philosophy worth the name is vision”, this central thread of the book is deeply satisfying … Though The Matter With Things contains much detailed and rigorous argument, it is, as its author says at the outset, less an argument properly speaking than a plea for openness to what reality, once our taste for precision and exploitation is set aside, can teach us … a hugely ambitious vision without parallel in contemporary thought.’