David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Analysis 63 (3):199–202 (2003)
Presentists believe that only presently existing things exist. In a Newtonian framework of three spatial dimensions, for example, presentists would say that all that exists is a three-dimensional spatial manifold, and the events in that manifold change with time. Eternalists, by contrast, believe that past, present, and future things all exist. In the Newtonian framework, eternalists believe in a four-dimensional space-time manifold, where events are scattered throughout this four-dimensional ‘block universe’. It is often thought that presentism is incompatible with time travel. William Godfrey-Smith (1980: 72), for example, says that ‘the metaphysical picture which underlies time travel talk is that of the block universe.’ In an informal survey of philosophers, the predominant answer to my question ‘Is presentism compatible with time travel?’ was ‘No’. Simon Keller and Michael Nelson (2001: 334) also report that this is the common view. I will argue that this common view is incorrect. Speciﬁcally, I will argue that presentism is compatible with some stories that involve closed timelike curves, and that some of these stories are time-travel stories.1 A closed timelike curve is a special case of a causal loop. A causal loop exists when there is a causal chain such that event A causes event B, event B causes event … , where the chain eventually links back to event A. Prima facie, at least, causal loops are compatible with presentism: just have all the events in the loop occur at the same time. A timelike causal connection..
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