Iain McGilchrist and Isaiah Berlin

It seems whatever I read about, math, computers, science, economics, libraries, gambling, horse racing, etc. always leads me back to my interests in philosophy. Iain McGilchrist gave a talk at the RSA on brains. An interesting talk about an interesting subject. What captured my fancy was not so much the discussion of the functions of the right and left hemisphere of the brain, but rather a paraphrase summary of an observation by the philosopher, Isaiah Berlin. The gist is we function, perhaps necessarily based on beliefs which are fairly obviously false.

  1. All question have answers.
  2. All answers can be communicated to others
  3. All answers are compatible

This is for me something I need to bear in mind. Of course all people are on both ends of these problems: trying to answer questions that don’t have answers – or even worse answering questions that do have answers and having successfully answered some question find no way to convey it to another human being or to posterity. It is frustrating for me to realize that most of the things I’ve come to realize never get passed on to anyone.

After I consumed the talk, I tried to find the source of the Isaiah Berlin quote. The theme exists throughout, but there is no exact quote. It was made harder by the fact that Berlin hasn’t been dead long enough for a Google Book search to be thorough.

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