In an interview in The Undergraduate Philosophy Journal of Australasia, Thomas Spiteri asks Peter Godfrey-Smith (Sydney) about “how best to make epistemic progress” answering philosophical questions about minds and consciousness.Godfrey-Smith’s answer is that philosophy won’t do it alone:
Now on the broader epistemological question, I think that with the mind-body problem, and its relationship to empirical discoveries, I don’t think there’s any sort of quasi-algorithmic summary of how to get to a true picture. I think it’s going to be a process where we just build gradually, from many directions at once. We learn more about how brains work, we learn more about the psychological or cognitive role of consciousness or experience itself, and we find a way to get past philosophical roadblocks and misconceptions by sort of pressing on those in the way that philosophers do. I’m quite optimistic about the whole situation. I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll never know, that we’ll never get an answer to these questions. I think we will. But I think we’ll get the answers through a kind of building from several directions towards a picture that makes sense of all the different kinds of evidence and considerations that are relevant here.
The idea that philosophical investigation builds upon developments in other areas, particularly the sciences (which themselves may have been helped along by philosophical developments) is not so uncommon in regard to certain question in philosophy of mind.
What other questions do philosophers take up about which we should believe that philosophical progress will not be possible absent certain kinds of scientific (or social scientific) progress? (Is this one of those questions?) What practical implications does the answer to this question have for how philosophical research should proceed?