I continue to somewhat struggle and significantly enjoy the 1375 pages of "The Matter With Things" -- I'm on page 1225, so God willing, I'm going to make it.
It is undeniable that there is significant hard work in reading, meditating on, noting, attempting to understand, a work like this. I regularly reflect that real life was never intended to happy, easy, distracting, entertaining, etc. Only in the very latest of modernity has it been possible to very nearly do nothing at all. Our water, food, sanitary systems, electrical power, transportation, shelter, communication, entertainment, etc are increasingly effortless. This is all courtesy of our left brain that sees the world as a problem to be "solved" either by physical means or an equation, a project to be completed, a challenge to be defeated, an enemy to be conquered, or an unmeasurable "thing" to be ignored.
The left brain has been a servant that has provided us much, however, as McGilchrist laments it is increasingly our master, converting our enchanted universe to a DISenchanted one. Well described by Charles Taylor in a nearly as massive book, "The Secular Age", probably best approached via a an attempted summary.
So what are "we"?
Conscious beings with no clue what consciousness is. Our left brain helpfully finds a simple solution based in the material world to get this supposed problem out of the way as rapidly as possible. Perhaps consciousness is an illusion that doesn't really "exist", since it can't be measured, and in a materialist universe, things that can't be measured do not exist by definition (according to the left brain)? No problem to even solve!
Perhaps it "somehow emerges" when you get enough neural stuff together ?
On page 1037, McGilchrist provides a simple model that blew my mind.
"But do we know that matter can give rise to consciousness? This is merely an assumption. When a TV set malfunctions, it can distort the image or sound it relays in a large number of ways, depending where the system malfunction lies. To an engineer, the nature of the distortion may be a clue to the location of the problem, as the nature of brain pathology is to the neurologist. To an observer from another planet, it might prove impossible to tell if the TV set did not generate, but merely transmitted it's output. Pull the plug and the show ceases to exist.
The intimacy of the relationship between two parties has in itself nothing to say about its nature. In the history of the cosmos, matter might give rise to mind, or mind to matter; or each might equally give rise to the other interdependently; or might run in parallel, because they are different aspects of some ultimately unified phenomenon. When it comes to the brain, the intimate relation between brain activity and states of mind cannot in itself help distinguish between theories of emission, transmission, and permission as its basis. In other words, the same findings are equally compatible with the brain emitting, transmitting, or permitting consciousness. (the last two are similar, excerpt that permitting substitutes the the idea of a constraint that is creative, fashioning what it allows come into being, for the merely passive idea of transmission)."
McGilchrist goes for the latter explanation as most likely. The commonly accepted first option is based on the left brain idea that while we don't understand consciousness, we do understand matter, ergo ... It must all be matter!
This is akin to the drunk looking for his keys under a streetlamp because the light is better there. The sad part here is that there is no "streetlamp" which the left brain assumed! Quantum Field Theory (QFT) has now assured us that we DON'T understand matter, and the left brain has again thrown up "helpful" models like the "many worlds", which postulates 10 to the 400th<400> universes. More comforting for modern man to believe than "God" (or another "thing" we don't understand,) although explaining nothing. What caused all those universes to happen? 400>
<400>The BIG model shift is to one where mind PRECEDES matter! It turns out that many of our famous physicists; Einstein, Pauli, Bohr, Feynman, etc either hinted at, grasped faintly, or decided that "it's all fields". No particles, thus no "matter" in the sense we think of it. 400>
Consciousness seems to be a field rather than a "thing" (matter). If the base of the universe is a field rather than stuff, what do we refer to it as? "The Force"?
It seems that every civilization has an "un-word" that is sacred and if spoken, spoken in awe ... Logos, Tao, li, Brahman, ri, Allah, YHWH -- and "God". "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
". “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am". I found that Harold Bloom gave some insight into some of the "naming issue" in "Jesus and Yahweh. The Names Divine
The title "The Matter With Things" shines out as increasingly appropriate. We have been duped by our left brains into believing a hopelessly meaningless materialist view of life, the universe and everything, while our right brains scream "Is this ALL there is???". We think all is matter, and therefore, a "thing". Our materialist model is so deep it affects everyTHING (I'm not going to keep doing that, but you get the point -- our very language is materialist) even increasingly, our religion.
We are drawn to a materialist view of God as some sort of old guy in the sky, and the Bible as a history book of THINGS and literal events. If someone can cast doubt on the material "fact" of anything in the Bible it isn't "true". We confuse "truth" with a materialist chain of actual material events, even though the Bible itself really tries to dissuade us.
One small example ... John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. ...". First he says "I AM" (hint, hint), then "the way", clearly not a material path, then "the truth" ... he is at that point a "fully man" physical person (but what is physical?), that is also the conceptual truth, and "the life" -- which gives us another good hint that we are beyond words here. Materialistically today, we don't know what "life" is, only that we can't create "it". It certainly isn't an "it" (thing"/matter).
No, there seems to be WAY more. Our "seemingly physical" bodies, and our much more real consciousness may be much better represented as "eddies" in the universal conscious field, that is "God".
Tragically, the important "sense" does not translate into words hardly at all. Music, art, awe, poetry ... all much better, and unfortunately all of which I am grossly untutored and therefore insufficiently appreciative of. I'm hoping the last few hundred pages move me along, but in all probability, it may be something like attempting to describe "blue" to a man blind from birth..
To a writer, the fact that text is a left brain, dangerous abstraction from the wonder, mystery, awe, and deep meaning of the much better right brained "whole" is disconcerting. Is it too late for me to become a poet? Perhaps writing with appropriate warnings that what I'm struggling to express is ultimately beyond textual representation.