Synthese

, Volume 141, Issue 1, pp 123–152 | Cite as

No End in Sight: Causal Loops in Philosophy, Physics and Fiction

  • Richard Hanley
Article

Abstract

There have been many objections to the possibility oftime travel. But all the truly interesting ones concern the possibility of reversecausation. What is objectionable about reverse causation? I diagnose that the trulyinteresting objections are to a further possibility: that of causal loops. I raisedoubts about whether there must be causal loops if reverse causation obtains; but devote themajority of the paper to describing, and dispelling concerns about, various kinds ofcausal loop. In short, I argue that they are neither logically nor physically impossible.The only possibly objectionable feature that all causal loops share is that coincidenceis required to explain them. Just how coincidental a loop will be varies: some arereally quite ordinary, and some are incredibly unlikely. I end by speculating thatthe tendency amongst physicists to avoid discussion of causal loops involving intentionalaction may have been unfortunate, since intentional action is an excellent way tonon-mysteriously bring about what otherwise would have been an unlikely coincidence. Hencecausal loops may be more likely in a world with beings like us, than in one without.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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  • Richard Hanley

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