Who Was Dr Who's Father?
MacBeath (Murray)
Source: Synthese, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Jun., 1982), pp. 397-430
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

    Could the time-traveling Dr. Who have been his own father? This article argues that the feat of fathering oneself is logically possible, but that, because it involves a causal loop, it is not scientifically possible – even though backward time travel1 may, for all we know, be scientifically possible. The article also includes discussion of more general problems concerning the direction of time, the direction of causation2, and the relation between them.
Introductory Paragraph
    In setting a recent Analysis competition, Jonathan Harrison has told a story so extravagant in its implications that it will be regarded by many as an effective reductio ad absurdum of the one dubious assumption on which the story rests: the possibility of time travel3. Those who, like me, believe in the possibility of time travel4 are faced with a choice between (1) unearthing some other assumption which, rather than the time-travel assumption, can be shown to be responsible for the unacceptable implications of Harrison's story, and (2) accepting the implications of the story. The implications in question include these: that a man can be his own father, that he can eat himself (that is, eat himself up), and that he can die before he is born. In this paper I take the view that there are no logical obstacles to adopting course of action (2): I hold that there is, despite the shock that they occasion on first acquaintance, nothing logically unacceptable about those implications of Harrison's story which I have just mentioned.

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