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What animals should be assigned moral status? Some (like Peter Singer) draw the lines at crustaceans and shrimp?  What about octopuses (octopi?) These creatures have remarkable intelligences including the ability to change their colour to suit their environment.  They also have remarkable straightforward reasoning power in anthropocentric terms.

I liked this piece in the NY Review of Books.  I thought it was going to be offbeat and humorous. It isn’t – it is a good read but it also has serious ethical intent.  Simply put: We should not take a narrow anthropocentric view of the world when it comes to attaching moral consideration to non-human life.  Humans don’t have it all.


4 comments to Octopi

  • I have always found octapi not to be the full squid!

  • Alan

    There are three plural forms of octopus: octopuses [ˈɒktəpəsɪz], octopi [ˈɒktəpaɪ], and octopodes [ˌɒkˈtəʊpədiːz]. Currently, octopuses is the most common form in the UK as well as the US; octopodes is rare, and octopi is often objectionable.[8]
    The Oxford English Dictionary[9] lists octopuses, octopi and octopodes (in that order); it labels octopodes “rare”, and notes that octopi derives from the mistaken assumption that octōpūs is a second declension Latin noun, which it is not. Rather, it is (Latinized) Ancient Greek, from oktṓpous (ὀκτώπους), gender masculine, whose plural is oktṓpodes (ὀκτώποδες). If the word were native to Latin, it would be octōpēs (‘eight-foot’) and the plural octōpedes, analogous to centipedes and mīllipedes, as the plural form of pēs (‘foot’) is pedes. In modern Greek, it is called khtapódi (χταπόδι), gender neuter, with plural form khtapódia (χταπόδια).
    Chambers 21st Century Dictionary[10] and the Compact Oxford Dictionary[11] list only octopuses, although the latter notes that octopodes is “still occasionally used”; the British National Corpus has 29 instances of octopuses, 11 of octopi and 4 of octopodes. Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary lists octopuses and octopi, in that order; Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists octopuses, octopi and octopodes (in that order).
    Fowler’s Modern English Usage states that “the only acceptable plural in English is octopuses,” and that octopi is misconceived and octopodes pedantic.
    The term octopod (plural octopods or octopodes) is taken from the taxonomic order Octopoda but has no classical equivalent. The collective form octopus is usually reserved for animals consumed for food.

    So there…

  • hc

    Its punning Homer at his best.

    Alan, Thanks for the clarification – my atrocious spelling now mostly corrected though I’ve left the wrong plurals.

  • Jim Rose

    see for Nozick’s view that animamals must count for something. they counted enough for Nozick to stop eating meat.

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