New Book: “Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness” 


Ok, so maybe this is not directly or solely related to the Caribbean; however, since I am interested in philosophy, I am an avid snorkeler (wish I could say “deep-sea diver” but, no), I love octopuses (as well as cats and crows) and I have come across a few of these fascinating cephalopods in Puerto Rico and other islands, I have a particularly keen “Caribbean” interest in putting this book at the top of my holiday reading pile. Here is a compelling review of Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (2016) by Meehan Crist (writer-in-residence in biological sciences at Columbia University).

Peter Godfrey-Smith is besotted with cephalopods. These enigmatic and generally solitary sea-dwellers include octopuses, cuttlefish and squid, all of which have big and complex brains and act in ways that suggest alien minds. A philosopher of science and experienced deep-sea diver, Godfrey-Smith has rolled his obsessions into one book, weaving biology and philosophy into a dazzling pattern that looks a lot like the best of pop science.

He peppers his latest book with vivid anecdotes from his cephalopod encounters: “I saw something moving under a ledge — something surprisingly large — and went down to look at it. What I found looked like an octopus attached to a hovercraft.… The animal seemed to be every color at once — red, grey, blue-green. Patterns came and went in a fraction of a second. Amid the patches of color were veins of silver like glowing powerlines. The animal hovered a few inches above the seafloor, and then came forward to look at me.”

[. . .] Godfrey-Smith, whose previous books include “Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science,” “Philosophy of Biology” and “Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection” (which won the 2010 Lakatos Award), is well-versed in writing accessible entry points to complex ideas in philosophy and biology. Here, he delivers philosophy wrapped even more firmly in the glittering cloak of popular science. The result is an incredibly insightful and enjoyable book that draws on thinkers like Hume, John Dewey and the lesser-known Soviet-era psychologist Lev Vygotsky, as well as research from the fossil record, evolutionary biology and a wide range of animal cognition studies without ever falling into some of the more lamentable pitfalls of the popular science genre — condescending to the reader or oversimplifying the science. [. . .]

For full review, see

For more on the author, see

For purchasing information, see

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