The Paradoxes of Time Travel
Lewis (David)
Source: Lewis - Philosophical Papers Volume II, Part 4: Counterfactuals and Time, Chapter 18
Paper - Abstract

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Abstract

  1. This paper argues that time travel is possible, and that the paradoxes of time travel are oddities, not impossibilities.
  2. The defence of the possibility of time travel involves
    1. a commitment to enduring things having temporal as well as spatial parts,
    2. psychological continuity and connectedness and
    3. causal continuity
    as criteria of personal identity, and a distinction between external and personal time.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Time travel, I maintain, is possible. The paradoxes of time travel are oddities, not impossibilities. They prove only this much, which few would have doubted: that a possible world where time travel took place would be a most strange world, different in fundamental ways from the world we think is ours.
  2. I shall be concerned here with the sort of time travel that is recounted in science fiction. Not all science fiction writers are clear-headed, to be sure, and inconsistent time travel stories have often been written. But some writers have thought the problems through with great care, and their stories are perfectly consistent.
  3. If I can defend the consistency of some science fiction stories of time travel, then I suppose parallel defenses might be given of some controversial physical hypotheses, such as the hypothesis that time is circular or the hypothesis that there are particles that travel faster than light. But I shall not explore these parallels here.
  4. What is time travel? Inevitably, it involves a discrepancy between time and time. Any traveler departs and then arrives at his destination; the time elapsed from departure to arrival (positive, or perhaps zero) is the duration of the journey. But if he is a time traveler, the separation in time between departure and arrival does not equal the duration of his journey. He departs; he travels for an hour, let us say; then he arrives. The time he reaches is not the time one hour after his departure. It is later, if he has traveled toward the future; earlier, if he has traveled toward the past. If he has traveled far toward the past, it is earlier even than his departure. How can it be that the same two events, his departure and his arrival, are separated by two unequal amounts of time?

Comment:

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