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Publisher's Summary

A philosopher dons a wet suit and journeys into the depths of consciousness.

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 audiobook 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 marvellous 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 colours 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.

©2017 Peter Godfrey-Smith (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Al
  • 03-27-17

A Cephalopod Love Story

Some quite interesting info in parts of the text. Generally too speculative and wishy washy to receive a higher score. A philosopher's work of science rather than a scientist's work of science. Comes across as someone playing at being Edward O. Wilson out of an emphatuation with octopi but lacking the expertise to pull it off.

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  • ben
  • 04-13-17

Fascinating

Utterly fascinating and very accessible. The closest you can get to understanding an alien intelligence.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 11-12-17

great stuff

My affinity with these creatures is enhanced. I will never eat one again!
well written, well read, and I know more now than I did before.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Celia
  • 08-13-17

Fascinating mix of science and philosophy

This book was a fascinating mix of science, philosophy and anecdotes. Although it tackled some challenging concepts, it was not dry or boring, and the discussion evolved at a layman's pace. The author's stories of his own experiences with octopuses and cuttlefish, as well as his discussion of other people's research stories, was interspersed between the discussion of evolution of a neural system, and philosophy of "what is a mind". Interesting concepts well narrated.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon
  • 07-12-17

outstanding

A really great recording of a fascinating book. I learned so much and have a new appreciation for all things cephalopod.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-29-17

Accessible and fairly profound. Octupulent!

Will make me look at calamari very differently. Facts and analysis of what might seem a marginal or obscure topic leading to some fairly deep thoughts about life and existence.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Wras
  • 11-13-17

The alien intelligence, a reflection on awareness


This is a book that explores much more than animal intelligence, in a few questions it compromises many notions we assume for granted in our everyday life, a book that explores not just biology but philosophy linguistics, neuroscience and evolution, opening doors and possibilities, that question our very perceptions and awareness of the natural world it also introduces us to alien minds that are physically and environmentally so distinct to us we should have very little in common un jet we share and can share a sense of curiosity playfulness and personality without anthropomorphizing them while recognizing that we can only see the reflection of the light we can persive.

A fascinating book that will clarify many ideas and presents many questions, a swim in a world that is the beginning of all life and will rekindle the sense of wonder we should never misplace.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin B
  • 01-03-18

A gr8 listen!

Really interesting book, not only on cephlopods but on the evolution of intelligence and sentience in general which I find facinating. Well worth a listen.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-07-17

a very fascinating topic

The evolution of intelligent life, and the emergence of subjective experiences, are incredibly fascinating objects of study. This book fills in some much-needed details about octopus mental states; understanding them can help us to understand human mental states - both through parallelisms and divergences.

"Other Minds" does a good job explaining some of the fascinating details of cephalopod biology (and psychology), but ultimately it fails to connect all the dots about cognitive evolution.

While occasionally spellbinding and never boring, the book lacks the cohesion of a truly rigorous analysis. Its theoretical framework, if you can speak of one, is underdeveloped. Nonetheless, it works pretty well as a bite-sized sealife snack. And since the subject matter is so fascinating, unknown and important to understand, I can recommend the book to all people despite its ephemeral substance.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-25-17

Excellent and enlightening read

Great insights into evolution in general and minds in particular. Excellently narrated. Fascinating read. I highly recommend it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Donna B
  • 11-24-17

Cephalopds and consciousness

I loved this book. The author has spent a lot of time observing octopus and cuttlefish and has fascinating insights into their behaviour and psychology. Did you know that cuttlefish producing amazing displays of colour on their bodies but are colour blind and only see in black and white?
This isn’t just a natural history book. Cephalopods are like us in some ways but totally alien in others. The contrasts are used to illustrate some fascinating aspects of evolutionary theory and how self awareness and consciousness developed.
One thing I liked especially was the author’s obvious empathy and regard for the animals he watches. Cephalopods are not cute, cuddly little creatures but he manages to give them character and individuality without anthropomorphising them.
If you’re interested in consciousness, you should definitely read this book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-17-17

Literary science at its pinnacle

Fantastic performance reading a stunning book.
Godfrey-Smith shows his passion for the philosophy, psychology, and biology of the Cephalopods whilst communicating cutting edge science.

It is great to see communication of this content done in such an academic, yet accessible way. Very enjoyable.

Highly recommended

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  • Libby Lin
  • 06-05-17

Light and Entrancing

Who knew that do much was happening in the mind of a cuttlefish or octopus? Fascinating from beginning to end. Books don't often change my perspective of the world in a tangible way - this is a rare exception. Other Minds is a loving fusion of evolution, biology and philosophy. I found Godfrey-Smith's story telling so compelling that I probably won't eat octopus again. If ever you wonder why the ocean is deserving of our moral consideration, read this book.