• met with future employers in the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics to sort out my job description.
  • hosting Blay during his visit – attended his talk on “The Ethical Challenges of Transhumanism” last night – he’s giving two more talks today.
  • Blay and my paper (abstract) “When is an Artefact a Moral Agent?” accepted for next summer’s “What Makes Us Moral?” conference in Amsterdam.
  • proofreading paper “In Defense of Ambivalence” – criticizing Frankfurt’s account of wholeheartedness.



Updates 07/12/2010


Reading Mike’s thesis.


Decided on tripartite structure for thesis: Natural kinds; mental causation; application of foregoing metaphysics to the neuroscience of decision making.


Looking for an extension till next September.

Working on E-Inentionality presentation.

Submitted paper to Teorema journal.


Went to San Sebastian to speak to Ezequiel about post doc. in the theoretical group of a Europwide project on extended motor contingencies – gave a talk on information and its relation to behavior.


Reading Gallagher – How the Body Shapes the Mind.


Working on colour – intending to submit as a paper for Joint Session of Aristotelian Society to be held at the University of Sussex on 8-10 July 2011.

E-Intentionality, December 7th 2010: Paul Loader

Paul Loader
Tues 07 Dec 15.20
Arundel 209
“Commodities and Cognition”

In (1978) Alfred Sohn-Rethel argues that the ‘enigmatic cognitive faculties of civilized man’ have their roots in the act of commodity exchange. This is put forward as a counter to a Kantian theory of cognition which locates the conceptual prerequisites for sense making in an a priori transcendental subject. Sohn-Rethal agrees with Kant that “the principles of knowledge fundamental to the quantifying sciences cannot be traced to the sensorial capacity of experience” (p.38) but he thinks they can be traced to “the spatio-temporal reality of social being…as reflections of the abstraction enshrined in money” (p.203).

A number of different but related theses are incorporated into this claim.Of particular interest is that which characterizes the abstraction inherent in exchange (the source of “pure intellectual concepts”) as ‘real abstraction’. The ‘real abstraction’ of exchange, says Sohn-Rethel, is not be located in the minds of individual participants but in the actions they perform:

“In commodity exchange the action and consciousness of people go separate
ways. Only the action is abstract, the consciousness of the actors is not.
The abstractness of their actions is hidden to the people performing it.”

Here we find a version of abstraction perhaps at odds with certain cognitive scientific accounts (e.g. Clark & Grush, 1999) which link the origins of human cognition with the individual subject’s capacity to go ‘offline’ from immediate engagement with the world.


Sohn-Rethel, A. (1978), Intellectual and Manual Labour – A Critique of Epistemology, London, Macmillan.

Excerpts are available at:




Updates 30/11/2010


  • Prepared presentation on the inadequacies of explanation by mirror neurons for teaching purposes.


  • Science and Society grants – asked to be expert grant evaluator for ethics.


  • Application to intermit rejected – will withdraw, hopefully temporarily.


  • In Lundt next week, giving 3 or 4 talks.
  • Code for roboticists to be released next week.


  • Working on proposals for European commission for January.
  • Doing some programming – plastic cognitive architechture.
  • Preparing talk for NCL on consciousness.


  • Writing talk for San Sebastian.


  • Working on the final stages of actualizing my grant with the IFL in Lisbon so I can start my Post-Doc properly in Jan 2011.
  • Working with Steve and Ron on the machine consciousness conference; I am currently writing a grant proposal to attempt to get some funding for this.
  • Last week I published a review of John Armstrong’s book In Search of Civilization: Remaking a tarnished idea on the Culture Wars website: http://www.culturewars.org.uk/index.php/site/article/civilisation_should_we_rehabilitate_this_unfashionable_idea/
  • Attempting to finish a review a review of Nicolas Carr’s book The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the way, we think, read and remember hopefully to be part of a three part series using some reviews to discuss the internet and the mind and some issues around extended cognition and the mind / brain relationship (hopefully the first part to be published next week).


  • Still working on colour.


  • Proofreading a paper on internalism vs. externalism about moral judgments. I am amused, with respect to this particular debate, to find myself coming down on the "internalist" side.
  • Received my viva date: 11 January.
  • Working out details of my postdoc position with the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics. I am to meet with the director on Thursday.
  • Making preparations for Blay’s (three!) talks next week.
  • Catching up listening to E-I talks: Ron’s, Simon’s, and Blay’s.
  • Took part in a "research slam", like a poetry slam. I had ten minutes to present my thesis research in a "popularized format". I didn’t win (in fact I came last ;-‘)), but I got some good consolation prizes.