Value and Purpose

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event Re-Visioning Consciousness, in Pari from June 6 to 12, 2022.

with Dr. Iain McGilchrist

In a previous lecture for the Pari Center, Iain McGilchrist argued for the nature of consciousness as a foundational element in the cosmos, not derivative from anything else. In this presentation he will not attempt to repeat that argument, but start from where he left off.  In his new book, The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (Perspectiva Press, November 2021), McGilchrist asks how we come to know anything at all, and move on to consider what we can say about the irreducible ‘building blocks’ of reality: time, space, matter, of course—but also (and perhaps for some people surprisingly) consciousness, values, purpose and the sense of the sacred. Value and purpose are implied by the very nature of consciousness itself; constitutive of reality, not ‘invented’ (though obviously particular values and particular purposes may be). Although science is popularly thought to contradict such a view it does not, rightly understood, do so at all; indeed reason and evidence strongly supports such a conclusion. McGilchrist holds that our failure to understand this lies at the heart of our current global predicament.

Dr Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist, neuroscience researcher, philosopher and literary scholar. He is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and former Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal & Maudsley Hospital, London.  He has been a Research Fellow in neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore and a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Stellenbosch.  He has published original articles and research papers in a wide range of publications on topics in literature, philosophy, medicine and psychiatry.  He is the author of a number of books, but is best-known for The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale 2009).  In November 2021, he published The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World. He lives on the Isle of Skye, has two daughters and a son, and now grandchildren.