Metzinger: Vittorio, you have repeatedly cornered me with pressing questions about Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Edith Stein. Why are you so interested in philosophy, and what kind of philosophy would you like to see in the future? What relevant contributions from the humanities are you expecting?
Gallese: Scientists who believe that their discipline will progressively eliminate all philosophical problems are simply fooling themselves. What science can contribute to is the elimination of false philosophical problems. But this is a totally different issue.
If our scientific goal is to understand what it means to be human, we need philosophy to clarify what issues are at stake, what problems need to be solved, what is epistemologically sound and what is not. Cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of mind deal with the same problems but use different approaches and different levels of descriptions. Very often, we use different words to speak about the same things. I think all cognitive neuroscientists should take classes in philosophy. Similarly, philosophers — at least, philosophers of mind — should learn a lot more about the brain and how it works. We need to talk to one another much more than we are doing now. How can you possibly investigate social cognition without knowing what an intention is, or without understanding the concept of second-order intentionality? Similarly, how can you possibly stick to a philosophical theory of cognition if it i patently falsified by the available empirical evidence? There is another aspect for which I think philosophy may be helpful. Our scientific bravado sometimes makes us think we are the first to have thought about something. Most of the time, this is not true!