Friday, July 27, 2018

Asymmetric temporal attitudes and time travel

Philosophers sometimes use thought experiments concerning the asymmetry of attitudes towards future and past events as arguments for a metaphysical asymmetry between past and future. For instance, the fact that I would prefer a much larger pain in my past to a smaller pain in the future is puzzling if the past and future are metaphysically on par.

Here’s a thesis I want to offer and briefly defend:

  • It is not rationally consistent to give use thought experiments in this way and to accept the possibility of backwards time travel.

The reason is quite simple: if backwards time travel is possible, our asymmetric attitudes track personal time, not objective time. If I am going to travel 100 million years back in six minutes, I will prefer a smaller pain in five minutes to a much larger pain 100 million years ago, since both of these pains will be in my personal future and only a minute of personal time apart. But the metaphysical asymmetry between past and future tracks external time, not personal time.


Philip Rand said...

Dr Pruss

On the contrary, the reasons you give concerning time is indeed rationally & biblically consistent. The logical trajectory of your example solves many puzzles (you just can't observe it).

1/ Existence of Israel
2/ Demonstration that Calvinism & Arminianism are wrong.
3/ Demonstration that the W L Craig concept of Middle Knowledge is wrong.

The above list is not exhaustive; just a few examples...

You are close to the solution; however, there is a single observation you must make in your post to make it cohesive; it would give you a scientifically valid approach to time.

Bogdan Faul said...

Dr. Pruss

It seems that your idea Is applicable only to one-dimensional time travel. If there are two time dimensions, then my preferring smaller pain in the past (100 million years ago) is really preferring smaller pain in the hyperfuture.

So it is rational to use thought experiments for asymmetry of time and believe that backward time travel is possible, if one believes that there are two time dimensions.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Mr Faul: Good point, but the arguments then yield not an asymmetry between past and future, but between hyperpast and hyperfuture.