Harvard Professor of Philosophy Peter Godfrey Smith380
Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Peter Godfrey-Smith has been intrigued by octopuses for years, diving in and around Sydney Harbour during summer breaks in his native Australia. Stunned by the lack of scientific research on octopuses, Godfrey-Smith is now studying their intelligence, and whether their tentacles have minds of their own.
If you were an octopus, would you view the world from eight different points of view? Nine?
The answer may depend on how many brains an octopus has, or, to say it another way, whether the robust bunches of neurons in its coiling, writhing, incredibly handy arms bestow on each of them something akin to a brain. Is an octopus a creature ruled by a single consciousness centered in its large brain, or, by dint of its nerve-infused legs, a collaborative, cooperative, but distributed mind?