If this is philosophy, it works, because Godfrey-Smith is a rare philosopher who searches the world for clues. Knowledgeable and curious, he examines, he admires. His explorations are good-natured. He is never dogmatic, yet startlingly incisive. His refreshing guidance invites us, allowing breathing room, to consider, occasionally to respectfully disagree.
Godfrey-Smith has rolled his obsessions into one book, weaving biology and philosophy into a dazzling pattern that looks a lot like the best of pop science ... Godfrey-Smith relates dramatic stories of mischief made by captive octopuses and spends a delightful chapter exploring cephalopods’ sophisticated color-changing abilities, but this is not narrative nonfiction about the secret life of cephalopods, along the lines of Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. This is a gifted philosopher and historian of science doing philosophy with octopuses. His project is no less ambitious than to work out the evolutionary origins of subjective experience ... he delivers philosophy wrapped even more firmly in the glittering cloak of popular science. The result is an incredibly insightful and enjoyable book.
...a smoothly written and captivating account of the octopus and its brethren, as observed by humans ... I found the facts more enlivening than the philosophy, but then philosophy is hard ... Mr. Godfrey-Smith mixes the scientific with the personal, giving us lively descriptions of his dives to 'Octopolis,' a site off the east coast of Australia at which octopuses gather ... Though it’s easy to think of octopuses as alien, a better view is that they are our cousins in biological destiny—spirits in a material world.