In an interview at The Australasia Journal of Undergraduate PhilosophyThomas Spiteri asks Peter Godfrey-Smith (Sydney) about “the best way to make epistemic progress” by answering philosophical questions about minds and consciousness.
Godfrey-Smith’s answer is that philosophy will not do it alone:
Now on the larger epistemological issue, I think with the mind-body problem, and its relationship to empirical findings, 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’re going to build gradually, from multiple directions at once. We learn more about how the brain works, we learn more about the psychological or cognitive role of consciousness or experience itself, and we find a way to overcome philosophical obstacles and misconceptions by somehow supporting so on these as philosophers do. I’m pretty optimistic about the big picture. I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll ever know, that we’ll ever get answers to these questions. I think we will. But I think we’ll get the answers through some sort of building from multiple directions into a picture that makes sense of all the different kinds of evidence and considerations that are relevant here.
The idea that philosophical inquiry draws on developments in other fields, particularly the sciences (which themselves may have been aided by philosophical developments) is not so uncommon with regard to certain questions of philosophy of mind.
What other questions do philosophers raise about which we should believe that philosophical progress would not be possible without some scientific (or social scientific) progress? (Is this one of those questions?) What practical implications does the answer to this question have for how philosophical inquiry should proceed?