Top positive review
A Different Perspective on Consciousness
Reviewed in the United States on November 13, 2020
Most popular science books on consciousness start with the human brain: this makes sense as it is the consciousness we know best. In Metazoa, the philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith takes a different tack. He looks at how phenomena such as point of view, subjectivity, sentience and other aspects of consciousness have likely evolved in the different biological kingdoms. This allows him to develop a broader view of consciousness than the standard “lights on” metaphor.
It is interesting to read Godfrey-Smith’s speculations about the consciousness of different primordial aquatic and terrestrial species. And he successfully builds a plausible account of consciousness as evolution proceeds from sponge to fish to mammal.
In short, it’s a serious book with a serious intent to change the scientific/philosophical conversation around consciousness. It may well succeed in doing so. But if you are looking for genuinely new scientific phenomena you may be disappointed.
You might feel that another book containing another theory of consciousness—even well supported by argument and evidence—-is a little tedious. There are so many theories of consciousness getting published that you just don’t feel like reading another one.
But for those who are interested in the ever evolving conversation around consciousness—both human and animal—this provides a well-written and well-argued perspective. For those who like their science to be more settled, or have just read too many theories of consciousness to keep track of them anymore, another book might be a better choice.