Sunday, January 08, 2017

Other Minds


If we think the rest of the universe is without awareness we have to invent a disembodied "God" to replace what is missing. And then we treat the planet as if it were a mindless object - resources to strip (as if that caused no harm or pain) .... and a place to dump our toxic chemicals and trash.

Imagine what our thought would be like, Dogen says, if we had no separate words for "mind" and "nature."

WaPo |  “The two of you look at each other. This one is small, about the size of a tennis ball. You reach forward a hand and stretch out one finger, and one octopus arm slowly uncoils and comes out to touch you. The suckers grab your skin, and the hold is disconcertingly tight. Having attached the suckers, it tugs your finger, pulling you gently in. . . . Behind the arm, large round eyes watch you the whole time.

Encountering an octopus in the wild, as Peter Godfrey-Smith argues in his fascinating book, “Other Minds,” is as close as we will get to meeting an intelligent alien. The octopus and its near relatives — squid, cuttlefish and nautilus — belong to a vast and eclectic group of creatures that lack backbones, the invertebrates. Collectively known as cephalopods (head-footed), they are related to snails and clams, sharing with them the unfortunate characteristic of tasting wonderful. Don’t read this book, though, if you want to continue eating calamari with an untroubled conscience, for living cephalopods are smart, beautiful and possessed with extraordinary personalities.