A quality product on good paper, written by confident people well versed in their field. The editors are generous and inclusive - allowing space for counter theories; even those dastardly, old fashioned Cartesians are allowed a voice [as misguided as it may be ;]
There's plenty of open and easy flowing prose from the highest grade US and global academics, who seem to be having fun and enjoying the debate they're collating, summarizing, reviewing and extending here. Introductory papers outline the historical philosophical antecedents, and the contemporary philosophic and scientific concerns, of the field of situated cognition; from Merleau-Ponty to cybernetics and the cognitive sciences. The book is well grounded and fleshed out in its field - seems itself a palpably socio-political phenomenon of the situation of cognition; playing out, as it does, the tension between the independently existing, ideal subject of cognition and a more socially and environmentally distributed experience of cognition's location. The book chases after the material location of cognition [or/and information processing or/and, 'Could this be consciousness here - the embodied substance of it?'] I enjoyed the playing out of the conceptual challenge presented by the way in which the functional successes of cybernetics and robotics seem to be ratifying understanding cognition, perception and information processing as taking place in the accessible world and not in some abstract or internal location.
Metaphysics gets turned around so that it's the dualists who increasingly appear to be the unsubstantiated, abstract speculators. Their unlocatable homunculi and interior representations are gazumped by progressively understanding consciousness as utterly configured by its location, taken up by environment, bound even conceptually in dependence upon it and structured by its structures and manifest only there, not detached and isolated. This is therapy for the alienated subject. As the frontispiece says, 'Some argue that this new orientation calls for a revolutionary new metaphysics of mind, according to which mental states and processes, and even persons, literally extend into the environment.' It was only delusion and neurosis that imagined people could ever be detached from the world.
But: The scientist authors, herein, often go gallivanting off into realms of philosophical speculation, the philosophers get so excited about the possibilities of scientific processes and the descriptions they provide for understanding consciousness as its location, that even they sometimes forget their own, logical discipline and end up not noticing the trouble they're running into - especially those reactionary Cartesians, who trip over the contradictions inherent in subject/object dualism and are resistant to the coalescence of their dearly held, but merely posited, extremes.
And: Although the book provides what seems to be an extensive overview of the field, it feels a little reserved. Most of the contributors express their reservations and hold back from a commitment to following the implications of cognition being situated. They look at it warily from conservative positions instead of jumping in at the deep end. Perhaps the work that is postulated has still not been undertaken, is still held back from for various personal and political reasons. So much so that the book often seems as much a counter statement than the investigation and adventure its preface promises. The resistance often feels like fear of the implications - the way that most scientists acknowledge that there is no evidence of there being anything other than the physical chains of material causation that make up the world, nothing that escapes physics, and yet still hang on to presumptions of free will, agency and objectivity in their analyses.
Maybe, like the contributors, wherever you prefer to conceptualize or feel the actuality of cognition, during the process of reading this book, you're likely to find it located where you are. In your head? In the book? In the world? But the field of situated cognition may, ultimately [depending on where you start from] nudge or force you into a new location.