Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Newsstands in the 1980’s have spread the word about differences between the two halves of the brain: The left side is said to be verbal and intellectual, the right spatial, creative, intuitive. Popular books suggest exercises to suppress the left brain’s rigid rationality and thus unleash previously unsuspected abilities in drawing, writing, nonlinear thinking, even mental telepathy. The concept of hemispheric specialization, however, is far from new. In Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Thought, Anne Harrington recovers the lost history of nineteenth century thought about the existence and nature of differences between the two sides of the brain and persuasively demonstrates the manner in which science—and particularly that science which tells human beings about themselves—is shaped by a society’s values, interests, and intellectual milieu.
The very claim that science, based only on observable reality, is purely objective and value free is, itself, the expression of a set of values. Scientific research grows from practical objectives which are socially determined and, even in its “purest” form, is contextually marked by the values and interests of the cultural climate within which scientists work. These values shape the topics thought worthy of investigation, the questions that are asked (and those that are ignored), the kinds of experiments that can be conducted, the hypotheses that are shaped,...
(The entire section is 1984 words.)
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