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Time Travel and its Paradoxes

Time Travel and its Paradoxes

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Published by timdocs
A review of basic puzzles and paradoxes engendered by time travel. Outline of a lecture I gave in April 2006
A review of basic puzzles and paradoxes engendered by time travel. Outline of a lecture I gave in April 2006

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Published by: timdocs on Aug 19, 2008
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Time Travel and its Paradoxes (an interactive introduction)Timothy ChambersApril 2006
: In which source might we find the following declaration: “In short, generalrelativity suggests that if we construct a sufficiently large rotating cylinder, wecreate a time machine”?a.
 Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction
Magazine b.
 Journal of Psychic Research
 Physical Review-D Answer 
 Source: Frank J. Tipler, “Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation”  Phys Rev. D 9, 2203–2206 (1974)
Online at:
(2)So time machines would appear to be consistent with the “Field Equations for Einstein’s Relativity.” But what follows?(a) Optimists Argument(b) Pessimists Argument
[1] If Einstein’s equations are [1] If Einstein’s equations are(sufficiently) true and (sufficiently) true andcomplete, then time travel complete, then time travelis possible is possible[2] Einstein’s equations are *[2] But time travel is impossible*(sufficiently) true andcomplete. Thus, time travel is possibleThus, Einsteins equations arefalse/too “permissive”
(Q) On what grounds do pessimists argue,
a priori
, that time travel is impossible?(A) Answer: several(1) Time travel entails historical skepticism (which is absurd)(2) Time travel entails a false picture of time(3) Time travel entails paradoxes of “personal identity”(4) Time travel entails paradoxes of “causation/agency”
(B) A First Bundle of Time-Travel Paradoxes
 Should time travel’s believers be skeptical about our knowledge of the past?
[1] If time travel is possible, then it’s possible that there were people—time travelers—alive during the Triassic Age
[2] If it’s possible that there were people alive during theTriassic Age, then we don’t know that “the first peoplearose 2 million years ago”[C1] So, if Time Travel is possible, then we don’t know thatthe first people arose only 2 million years ago.[3] But of course we
that the first people arose only 2 millionyears ago![C2] So, Time travel isn’t possible
 How could time travel make sense—there’s “Nowhen to go!” 
[1] If my friend, the Time Traveler, is now walking in the TriassicAge, then the Triassic Age now exists[2] But the Triassic Age is in the past[3] Past times no longer existSo, it’s impossible that my friend…is now walking in the Triassic Age
Time Travel entails contradictions of “personal identity” 
[1] If time travel is possible, then it’s possible that I go back to 1979,and visit New York City[2] But Tim lived in
in 1979[C1] So, if time travel is possible, then it’s possible for Tim to be intwo places at once[4] But it’s impossible for a person to be in two places at once[C2] Thus, time travel is impossible
Here, I allude to H.G. Wells’ famous line: “[My friend, the time traveler] may even now—if I may use the phrase—be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral reef, or beside the lonely saline lakes of the Triassic Age.” From: “Epilogue,”
The Time Machine
(1898 ed.) Online at: http://www.bartleby.com/1000/
A recent airing of the paradox appears in William Grey, “Troubles With Time Travel”
74(1999): 55–70
This paradox is famously aired and explained in David Lewis’s classic, “The Paradoxes of Time Travel”
 American Philosophical Quarterly
13 (1976): 145-152.

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