The Man With Five Brains

bird-webSocrates couldn’t make up his mind. He gazed down at the cup in his hand, then out the barred window of his cell, to the proscenium across the square where his young protege’s gathered. One part of his mind seemed to say, “Get out of here, you idiot!” while another part said to remain quietly in his cell to face his death sentence.

WUMP-wump-wump, WUMP-wump-wump-his limbic system sent new information. RUN, RUN it said. But as that information ran from his cerebellum through numerous neural connections to his frontal lobes, his neocortex was processing the obvious hopelessness of such an ad.

It occurred to Socrates at that moment, that a good man-a man who was good at being a man-had probably to be good at being a fish also. This possibility had never really suggested itself to Socrates before, in all his dialog with his students, but then this situation was unique and really quite stimulating.

Young Plato, with his utopian ideals was always suggesting outlandish ideas like this though. He would have enjoyed this notion: Several loosely connected brains, at work within each man at any given moment…

Too bad he’d never get to discuss the idea with him now. In Athens four hundred years before Christ, it had become a capital crime to teach the young to think, even with one brain! But right now Socrates had nothing left but lime so he pursued this new line of thought:

How might I have put it?

The whole is at least the sum of its parts, is it not? And do we not have numerous impulses in given situations? A man fallen into a pond will thrash about, fish-like, driven by a dormant instinct shared with some aquatic creature, while a person injured in the Street might curl up like a worm…

Hence, at any given instance, a man might access a place within himself where he will behave as any one, or group of ‘lower animals’ might act. It follows, that in order to excel as a whole man-that is of course, to be good at being a man-would require being good at being a fish, or perhaps a rodent or deer or a worm.

The concept had a certain seditious logic to it and might well catch a rise from the young Creeks. What might the philosophic repercussions be? Would there be ontological ramifications? Or could some moral imperative be sprung from this notion? Would there have to be a place for sea gulls in Plato’s new republic?

Finally the idea was taking form and Socrates found himself growing thirsty. Swirling the hemlock once in his glass, he swallowed down the fetid mix and lay back to dream the five-brained dreams of good men, while ideas of phylogeny would wait dormant another two thousand years before corrupting the minds of the youth of another time.