Closed Time and Causal Loops: A Defence against Mellor
Weir (Susan)
Source: Analysis, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Oct., 1988), pp. 203-209
Paper - Abstract

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Introductory Paragraphs

  1. At seven o'clock one sunny evening, a man applies a match to the charcoal in his barbecue. A second or two later, the charcoal ignites. This is, in principle, a highly probable causal chain. At the same moment, a neighbour applies a match to her barbecue in order to make it light at the earlier time of 6 p.m. This is not a possible causal process, as plausibly argued by D. H. Mellor. Finally, in a third well-kept garden, a match is applied to the barbecue at seven o'clock and, as a result, it ignites at an earlier time, not just a few seconds, but millions of years before. This, I shall argue, is perfectly possible and, within the appropriate context, is left quite untouched by Mellor's arguments against the second case.
  2. Mellor's intention in Chapter X of Real Time is to disprove the possibility of backward causation1. In order to do this he argues that causal loops cannot fulfil at every stage the requirements for being a causal process. His example is of a small, localized loop like that in Case Two above. He claims, though, that his arguments apply to all causal loops including ones which consist of the entire history of the universe. 'Cyclical universes are as impossible as backward causation2, for the same reason' (p. 187). I shall argue that, in the context of what he calls a cyclical universe, Mellor's arguments against causal loops become either irrelevant or invalid. It is in such a world that the third case described above is perfectly possible.

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