On Sept. 9 “An Evening With Peter Godfrey-Smith” took place in Fox Hall, welcoming Australian author, Peter Godfrey-Smith, to speak about his novel “Other Minds, The Octopus, The Sea, and The Deep Origins of Consciousness” as a part of the College Program Series (CPS). The novel was a summer reading requirement for first-year students in Human Experience and seniors in Imagining Justice courses.
As a professor of philosophy at City University of New York and a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Sydney, Peter Godfrey-Smith knows how to think.
In his book, Smith delves into the minds of different branches of species such as arthropods and vertebrates, with a more specific, in-depth focus on cephalopods and the relation they have to humans.
The majority of Smith’s novel is set in Sydney, Australia and takes place mostly in those interesting underwater locations. At the lecture, Smith showed the audience of Eckerd students and citizens of the St. Petersburg community surreal videos of octopuses. Smith filmed underwater on a GoPro with colleague Matt Lawrence, and witnessed the daily activities of the creatures Smith deemed “underwater aliens.”
The focus of Smith’s “Other Minds” is that experience and consciousness coexist in the mind to create a balance of thinking and awareness. In the lecture and novel, he explained that this matters because if humans can understand other species’ relationship with consciousness, we can better understand our own relationship with consciousness.
Smith discovered an underwater destination he nicknamed: Octopolis. Home to the Octopus Tetricus, otherwise known as the “Gloomy Octopus,” Smith described Octopolis as a heaven and hell for an octopus. According to Smith, the sea floor used to house scallops until there was an opening in the sand, allowing octopuses to support life in that location. Octopus ate the scallops and the accumulation of the shells caused the sand to harden in texture and allow the octopus to create new homes.
Smith is working on a follow-up project to “Other Minds” expected to come out Thanksgiving 2020.