An Interview with Professor James Chesher

Professor at Santa Barbara C.C.

Conducted by Derrik Nishiyama

NISHIYAMA: When you are asked the question, "Does God exist?" how do you respond?

CHESHER: I ask the person to define God.

NISHIYAMA: As you know, there is currently a raging debate in science over the issue of artificial intelligence. Do you think artificial intelligence in the future will equal or bypass human intelligence?

CHESHER: I think that the concept of artificial intelligence needs to be clarified first. If defined in a certain way, for example, the ability to manipulate symbols and solve certain kinds of complex problems, I would assume that computers, in the future, will surpass human ability. But in terms of solving other kinds of problems, no I don't think that they'll be able to do that.

NISHIYAMA: What do you think happens to us after death?

CHESHER: I have no idea.

NISHIYAMA: If you were stuck on a desert island and could take only five philosophically oriented writings, which ones would you choose? Why?

CHESHER: I think the complete works of Shakespeare would be one, because that would provide me with a lot of philosophical questions to ponder. I would take a piece of Eastern philosophy, maybe the ("Aucavidigita"?). I would take the philosophical investigations of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the 20th century philosopher.

NISHIYAMA: What is your philosophical perspective on the age-old question of "free will versus determinism"?

CHESHER: I'd say that given the standard definition of those concepts, I would side for free will rather than determinism.

NISHIYAMA: Which philosophical tradition do you find yourself agreeing with most? Why?

CHESHER: I'd say the classical Greek, in particular Aristotle. I think that Aristotle's first thought of philosophy makes the most sense to the ordinary understanding.

NISHIYAMA: Which philosophical tradition do you find yourself disagreeing with most? Why?

CHESHER: Metaphysical materialism, because I think that philosophy risks reducing, in particular, the human element to categories that are not really meaningful.

NISHIYAMA: Name some philosophers whom you admire. Why?

CHESHER: Socrates, of course, for setting an example of leading a philosophical life, as opposed to simply having espoused a certain belief. Aristotle for great reach of thought and wide perspective and his ability to bring virtually all of human concern down to a common sense level. Plato for having, in a sense, lifted human beings out from the realm of nature showing some possibility of transcendence. Jean Paul Sartre for emphasizing human responsibility. I'd say virtually every one of these great philosophers. David Hume's skepticism for showing us how important it is to be philosophically/intellectually honest. Immanuel Kant for almost displaying beautifully the ability of the human mind or at least the attempt of the human mind to understand itself. I'm sure I've left out a whole bunch of them, but those are the ones that stand out immediately to me.