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Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life Paperback – 8 Mar 2018
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Praise for Other Minds:
‘Entrancing and profound’ Financial Times
‘A superb, coruscating book’ Literary Review
‘Startlingly incisive … refreshing guidance’ New York Times
‘The beauty of Godfrey-Smith’s book lies in the clarity of his writing; his empathy, if you will. He takes us through those early stirrings in the seas of deep time, from bacteria that sense light and can taste, to cnidarian jellyfish, the first organisms to exhibit nervous systems, which he describes wonderfully.’ Philip Hoare, Guardian
‘Fascinating and often delightful … This book ingeniously blends philosophy and science to trace the epic journey from single-celled organisms of 3.8 billion years ago to the awakening and development of cephalopod consciousness.’ The Times
‘As poignant as anything you will read this year’ Mail on Sunday
‘In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosopher, skilfully combines science, philosophy and his experiences of swimming among these tentacled beasts to illuminate the origin and nature of consciousness.’ The Economist
‘A delight on so many levels’ Dive magazine
‘To investigate these astonishing animals with such empathy and rigour is achievement enough. To do so while casting light on the birth and nature of consciousness, as Peter Godfrey-Smith does here, is captivating.’ China Miéville, author of Kraken
‘I love this book, its masterful blend of natural history, philosophy, and wonder … It’s a captivating story, and Peter Godfrey-Smith brings it alive in vivid, elegant prose … A must-read for anyone interested in the evolution of the mind – ours and the very other, but equally sentient, minds of the cephalopods.’ Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds
About the Author
Peter Godfrey-Smith is a distinguished professor of history and the philosophy of science at the University of Sydney. He is the author of four books, including Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, which won the 2010 Lakatos Award for an outstanding work on the philosophy of science. His underwater videos of octopuses have been featured in National Geographic and New Scientist.
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Secondly, 'Other Minds' is the kind of book destined to become a classic of its genre, as it has a tremendous - I would say life-changing - effect on the reader. This reader included; after reading about the startlingly high level of intelligence possessed by octopuses, I cannot ever see myself ordering octopus as food in a restaurant again. It just seems wrong; they are as characterful as dogs and cats, and I think it would simply be terrible to treat these amazing creatures as a foodstuff any longer. I do hope, given my love of bacon and chorizo, that Godfrey-Smith's next book is not on the topic of porcine intelligence...
And thirdly (for the sake of brevity - I could certainly go on in praise of this book), Godfrey-Smith makes a great case for the protection of the ocean environment. Overfishing and pollution have both taken their toll, and now that we understand how much intelligence - nay, sentience - is present in the depths, we owe it to our genetic relatives (by which I mean all species, in every shape and form) to do a better job of not destroying what life there is out there.
His passion for octopuses also shines through and contributes to the readability of the book. The only reason it doesn't get five stars from me is that the prose is a tad try. Nevertheless, he does a great job of distilling complex concepts for the lay reader, and the book reads like a breeze, making it worthwhile for anyone with an interest in these kinds of subjects.