What Time Travelers Cannot Do
Vihvelin (Kadri)
Source: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 81, No. 2/3, Papers Presented at the American Philosophical Association PacificDivision Meeting 1995 (Mar., 1996), pp. 315-330
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. I agree that there is a difference between 'will not' and 'cannot', and I agree that the argument for the metaphysical impossibility of autoinfanticide is based on fatalistic confusions. And I agree that there are many ways in which time travellers1 are like the rest of us; there are things which they do not do which they nevertheless can do. But I now think that no time traveller2 can kill the baby who in fact is her younger self, given what we ordinarily mean by 'can'.
  2. This is a surprising conclusion, one which I resisted for some time, and one which some of my readers have taken as a new argument against the possibility of time travel3. But I think it's a mistake to reject the logical (or even physical) possibility of time travel4 on the grounds that it cramps our style.
  3. I will argue that the time traveller’s5 inability to commit autoinfanticide is just what we should expect, given the time traveller’s6 somewhat peculiar situation, and given some very general considerations about how we evaluate counterfactuals.

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