Other Minds

Other Minds

The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

Book - 2016
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"Peter Godfrey-Smith is a leading philosopher of science. He is also a scuba diver whose underwater videos of warring octopuses have attracted wide notice. In this book, he brings his parallel careers together to tell a bold new story of how nature became aware of itself. Mammals and birds are widely seen as the smartest creatures on earth. But one other branch of the tree of life has also sprouted surprising intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus. New research shows that these marvelous creatures display remarkable gifts. What does it mean that intelligence on earth has evolved not once but twice? And that the mind of the octopus is nonetheless so different from our own? Combining science and philosophy with firsthand accounts of his cephalopod encounters, Godfrey-Smith shows how primitive organisms bobbing in the ocean began sending signals to each other and how these early forms of communication gave rise to the advanced nervous systems that permit cephalopods to change colors and human beings to speak. By tracing the problem of consciousness back to its roots and comparing the human brain to its most alien and perhaps most remarkable animal relative, Godfrey-Smith's Other Minds sheds new light on one of our most abiding mysteries."--Goodreads.com summary.
Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780374227760
Characteristics: x, 255 pages, [8] pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm


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May 12, 2018

Amazing contribution to what it is like to be a human. This philosopher of science takes us on a journey through evolutionary time, showing there are more than one paths to consciousness. This context helps me understand that, like with everything in nature, there are no hard lines, only spectra. Yes, other beings have bodies, awareness, locomotion, consciousness (you name it). But just not the same way we do.

Oct 24, 2017

Very interesting read! I wish he got a little bit more philosophical but otherwise it was an interesting overview of evolution and the basic mechanics of the mind.

Sep 24, 2017

What is consciousness? Do animals have it? Given the title of the book and the fact that it is written by a philosopher you might expect some answers, or at least a lively philosophical discussion. Never happens. Hume is mentioned once, maybe twice. Descartes once, I think. Freud not at all. Most of the time I got the impression he was in a hurry to get back into his scuba gear and hang out with octopuses. Which is fine. If that's the kind of book you're looking for, this is it. He did a great job explaining octopus and cuttlefish behaviour. And he certainly convinced me they are really really smart. Intelligence, however, is not the same as consciousness and it seems he was uninterested or unaware of the distinction. So at the end of the day, having read the book, I am still no nearer an answer to a question that has intrigued me for years: Are animals conscious? 1 out of 5 on that score. As a book about animal behaviour, 4 out of 5. .

ArapahoeAnna Jul 28, 2017

Intelligence and consciousness evolved more than once on this planet. Cephalopods are evolution's only experiment in big brains outside of the vertebrates. They have self awareness with a distributed mind, which opens new horizons in our search for life in the universe. The underwater pictures of Octopolis are amazing.

SFPL_danielay Jul 27, 2017

An absolutely fascinating exploration of consciousness . Starting with the observation of complex octopus behavior, the author, a philosopher of science, explores what consciousness means and how it could have evolved not only once but several times in evolutionary history. If you are looking for a book about octopus behavior and their interactions with humans, this book might not completely satisfy you but if you are willing to follow Godfrey-Smith on his journey into the ocean and back in time, you are in for a treat.

JCLAmyF Feb 08, 2017

Absolutely fascinating look into the evolution of consciousness and self-awareness! What does it feel like to be a cuttlefish? How about an octopus? For that matter, what the heck does it feel like to be a human? Philosophy meets science meets fascinating creatures.


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