The Consciousness of Birds: Peter Godfrey-Smith & Jonathan Meiburg

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This event is part of our Subject/Object: The Birds festival. Buy a festival ticket for whole series here.

‘It’s true that some philosophers have been led to dualism, or in some cases to panpsychism, by going down this road, but we need not follow them. Making biological sense of sentience is the task we face.’ – Peter Godfrey-Smith, writing in the LRB in 2016

Jonathan Meiburg, best known as the frontman of Shearwater and a member or former member of other bands including Okkervil River and Loma, is also an ornithologist. When his research took him to the Falkland Islands in the late nineties, he came across a rare species of raptor that had captivated and infuriated the crew of the Beagle. ‘Tame and inquisitive’, ‘quarrelsome and passionate’ was how Darwin described the striated caracaras, or Johnny rooks, which stole his shipmates’ hats and compasses. A Most Remarkable Creature, Meiburg’s account of his decades-long fascination with this bird of prey that seems to be designed not for hunting but for thinking, was published in April.

He’ll discuss the consciousness of birds, and other animals, with Peter Godfrey-Smith, whose astonishing study of octopus intelligence, Other Minds, has just been reissued as a Collins Modern Classic.

This conversation will be followed by a world exclusive premiere of a selection of songs from Shearwater’s new album, their first for five years.

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