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Synthese

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Time travel and counterfactual asymmetry

  • Alison FernandesEmail author
Article

Abstract

We standardly evaluate counterfactuals and abilities in temporally asymmetric terms—by keeping the past fixed and holding the future open. Only future events depend counterfactually on what happens now. Past events do not. Conversely, past events are relevant to what abilities one has now in a way that future events are not. Lewis, Sider and others continue to evaluate counterfactuals and abilities in temporally asymmetric terms, even in cases of backwards time travel. I’ll argue that we need more temporally neutral methods. The past shouldn’t always be held fixed, because backwards time travel requires backwards counterfactual dependence. Future events should sometimes be held fixed, because they’re in the causal history of the past, and agents have evidence of them independently of their decisions now. We need temporally neutral methods to maintain connections between causation, counterfactuals and evidence, and if counterfactuals are used to explain the temporal asymmetry of causation.

Keywords

Time travel Counterfactuals Causation Evidence Temporal asymmetry Backwards causation Open future David Lewis 

Notes

Acknowledgements

My warm thanks to the following people for helpful comments, discussions and suggestions: David Albert, Kristie Miller, Achille Varzi, Carolina Sartorio, Alasdair Richmond, Jenann Ismael, Anjan Chakravartty, Matthew Brown, Kareem Khalifa, Yann Benétreau-Dupin, Edouard Machery, Jonathan Tallant, Christian Loew, Juliusz Doboszewski, and Giuliano Torrengo. This work was supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, and a Research Fellowship on the AHRC project ‘Time: Between Metaphysics and Psychology’ at the University of Warwick (AH/P00217X/1).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTrinity College DublinDublinIreland

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