Peter Godfrey-Smith

Oct 7, 2021

Octopus World

Other Minds with Peter Godfrey-Smith (EF, JP)

New Books Network 2021

Peter Godfrey-Smith knows his cephalopods. Once of CUNY and now a professor of history and philosophy of science at University of Sydney, his truly capacious career includes books such as Theory and Reality (2003; 2nd edition in 2020), Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (2009) and most recently Metazoa. RtB--including two Brandeis undergraduates as guest hosts, Izzy Dupré and Miriam Fisch-- loves his astonishing book on the fundamental alterity of octopus intelligence and experience of the world, Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. Another equally descriptive title for that book, and for the discussion we share with you here (after Thomas Nagel's "What is it like to be a Bat?") might be What is it Like to be an Octopus?

As always, below you will find helpful links for the works referenced in the episode, and a transcript for those who prefer or require a print version of the conversation. Please visit us at (or even subscribe there) if you are interested in helpful bonus items like related short original articles, reading lists, visual supplements and past episodes grouped into categories for easy browsing.

Mentioned in the Episode:

--Adrian Tchaikovsky, Children of Ruin

--"Open the pod bay doors, Hal": a chilling line from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

--District Nine (2009, dir. Neill Bloomkamp) in which giant intelligent shrimp from outer space play the role of octopus-like alien intelligence, and prompt a complex but unmistakably racist reaction on their arrival in South Africa.

--Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)

--Erik Linklater, Pirates in the Deep Green Sea (1949)


Finally, all listeners and readers who are interested in the gentle art of podcasting are cordially invited to the inaugural Humanities Podcasting Symposium, held over Zoom, October 15-16. Latif Nasser of Radiolab will headline two days of workshops, seminars and discussions among scholars students and amateurs who have fallen in love with the pedagogical and intellectual possibilities the medium affords. Elizabeth and John will both be presenting. Join us. RSVP here

Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email:

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Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world. Recall This Book is hosted by Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and John Plotz, Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative.

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