Nautilus

What It Feels Like to Be an Octopus

On a recent Sunday, at my local Italian market, I considered the octopus. To eat the tentacle would be, in a way, like eating a brain—the eight arms of an octopus contain two-thirds of its half billion neurons. Delicious for some, yes—but for others, a jumping off point for the philosophical question of other minds.

“I do think it feels like something to be an octopus,” says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a professor of philosophy at CUNY Graduate Center, who has spent almost a decade considering the idea. Stories of octopuses’ remarkable ability to solve puzzles, open bottles, and interact with aquarium caretakers, suggest an affinity between their intelligence and our own. He wonders: What, if anything, is going on in its head—or as may be the case, its arms? The rest

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