When I was a young man coming up, as we used to say, one of the hot topics in philosophy was private languages. The issue arose in Epistemology, where everyone worried about whether I had a private language to describe my immediate sensory experience [“sense data,” we called it] and whether, if I did, I could communicate that experience by means of it to you. It also came up in Ethics, where everyone worried about whether I could ever compare my pains to yours [or my pleasures, but we tended to be more pessimistic in those days. It was before the Sixties.]
All of which flashed through my mind when I read about Inky, the New Zealand octopus. It seems Inky, holed up in a Wellington aquarium, saw a tiny fissure in the wire mesh at the top of his tank, squeezed through it after hours, slid down the side of the tank to the floor, sidled over to a storm drain, slithered through that, and made his way to freedom in the Pacific Ocean. I had always read that octopi were unusually intelligent, though I could never figure out how anyone knew. I would have liked the aquarium attendants [who wished Inky well, by the way – he was very popular] to make more of an effort to communicate with him. Do you suppose he has a private language?
Now I understand why I have always declined to eat calamari, even though I love raw oysters.