Time, Flies, and Why We Can't Control the Past

In Barry Loewer, Eric Winsberg & Brad Weslake (eds.), Time’s Arrows and the Probability Structure of the World. Cambridge, Mass.: (forthcoming)
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David Albert explains why we can typically influence the future but not the past by appealing to an initial low-entropy state of the universe. And he argues that in the rare cases where we can influence the past, we cannot use this influence to knowingly gain future rewards: so it does not constitute control. I introduce an important new case in which Albert's account implies we can not only influence the past but control it: a case where our actions in the present are reliably correlated with several events in the present and past. To deal with such cases, we need to appeal to epistemic conditions on deliberation: being agents requires our decisions being epistemically undetermined at the time we make them. In a world with the past-hypothesis, this implies that deliberation will typically come prior to decision. Once deliberation in this direction is established, correlations towards the past cannot then be exploited for control. To explain why we cannot effectively control the past, we need to appeal to deliberation, whether as part of a defence of Albert's account, or used independently to explain the asymmetry of control.



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Alison Sutton Fernandes
Trinity College, Dublin

Citations of this work

Mentaculus Laws and Metaphysics.Heather Demarest - 2019 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 23 (3):387--399.

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References found in this work

The Direction of Time.Hans Reichenbach - 1956 - Dover Publications.
Time and Chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Harvard University Press.
Two Accounts of Laws and Time.Barry Loewer - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 160 (1):115-137.
The Direction of Time.HANS REICHENBACH - 1956 - Philosophy 34 (128):65-66.

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