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Philosophy Paper on Possibility of Time Travel into the Past without Creating a Time Paradox

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Time travel is well-known from sci-fi and has fascinated philosophers and physicist alike due to the metaphysical issues that arise from it: the nature of time, causation, and modality. It’s broadly acknowledged that it is possible to time travel to the future, however the possibility of time travel to the past has continued to be intensely debated because of the paradoxes of time that can occur. In this paper, I will argue that time travel into the past is possible without creating a time paradox based on the argument of the grandfather paradox.

According to the linear model of time, time moves in a linear fashion and a time traveler’s trip happens along a single timeline, with events occurring relative to the travelers’ point in time. According to this model of time, time travel would be impossible as demonstrated by the famous grandfather paradox. In this paradox, Tim, who lives in T3, happens to have a time machine that can travel to the future and the past. Tim has a vendetta against his grandfather so much so that he decides to travel to the past (T1) and murder his grandfather while he was young and before his grandfather has had one of his parents (T2). Tim buys a rifle, spends long hours in target practice, shadows his grandfather to learn his daily routine, and rents a room along the path his grandfather takes to work every day. When the time comes to kill him, Tim makes sure to prevent any factors that may keep him from completing his mission and waits at the window for his grandfather to pass by. In a linear model of time, a paradox occurs when Tim attempts to kill his grandfather. His grandfather logically cannot be killed by Tim at that moment of time because without his grandfather being alive his parent would not have been born and therefore he would not have been born; if he wasn’t born, then he would have never been able to go back in time to kill his grandfather. The grandfather paradox is a paradox of time travel during which contradictions arise from changes in the past. Other versions of paradoxes that are similar to the grandfather paradox are easier to understand and don’t have as much of a severe consequence. An example I will give is this:

Suppose Fry, who lives in 2019 (T3) has recently created a time machine. Fry has a longtime friend who he hadn’t been in contact with since 2014. His friend is killed by a drunk guy in a fight that happened at a widely known party that occurred in 2017 (T1). Fry missed out on that party because he was working at the time but had heard about his friends’ death on the news. Fry decides to use the time machine to go back in time to 2017 and covertly save his friends’ life. Fry plans on stopping the murderer from fighting his friend before the fight breaks out.

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A paradox emerges because if Fry does succeed in covertly saving his friend’s life, then Fry would have never needed to travel back in time in the first place to save his friends’ life, but if he didn’t travel to 2017 to save his friend then he would not have been able to stop his friend from being killed. The time paradox occurs because the person had the intent to change a specific event in the past. They had knowledge of the event that took place in the past and would lose knowledge of that event if they changed it and therefore would not have been able to have intently travel back in time to change the event. However, changing an event in the past without causing the time paradox can exist as long as there were no predefined intentions to do so and no prior knowledge of the event. This can be explained by using the previously stated example with small tweaks to the example:

Suppose Fry, who lives in 2019 (T3) has recently created a time machine. Fry has a longtime friend who he hadn’t been in contact with since 2014. His friend is killed by a drunk guy in a fight that happened at a widely known party that occurred in 2017 (T1). Fry missed out on that party because he was working at the time but has never heard about his friends’ death. Fry decides to use the time machine to go back in time to 2017 and go to the party since he missed out on it. Fry unknowingly befriends the drunk guy that would eventually murder his friend, realizes that he is very intoxicated and calls a cab to take him home. The fight never broke out and his friend wasn’t killed.

In this example, it is possible that a paradox would not have occurred because he did not originally intend to use the time machine to save his friend’s life and Fry had no prior knowledge of his friends’ death. A philosopher might use the branching model of time, where the paradox would form a new and separate timeline that would share the same past, to argue why a time paradox would not happen, and as a result, Fry would return to a timeline where his friend was never killed. Using the explanation of the problem with the branching model of time in Bradford Skow, “Notes on The Grandfather Paradox,” I would respond by stating that it would not be possible because the problem with that argument is that if a new and separate timeline did branch out from the original timeline, Fry would appear in a timeline where apparently he is known by everyone who resemble the people he already knew from the original timeline and would happen to look and have the same name even though it’s the first day that Fry has spent in the new timeline. This would infer that there must be a near-identical version of Fry that was already born in that timeline that has lived an exact version of Frys’ life with the exception of Frys’ friends’ death. This means that Fry would evidently run into his counterpart, since they would be living the same life. In addition, I would state that a time paradox would not formulate because the current timeline would not necessarily completely change, but rather be altered starting at the moment that the person time travelled. By that, I mean that the memories of the event before the time travelling occurred would seize to exist and the new memories would take place starting at that moment.

In Conclusion, I have argued that time travel into the past is possible and by possible, I mean metaphysically possible, without creating a time paradox as long as there were no predefined intentions to do so and no prior knowledge of the event.

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Philosophy Paper on Possibility of Time Travel into the Past without Creating a Time Paradox. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/philosophy-paper-on-possibility-of-time-travel-into-the-past-without-creating-a-time-paradox/
“Philosophy Paper on Possibility of Time Travel into the Past without Creating a Time Paradox.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/philosophy-paper-on-possibility-of-time-travel-into-the-past-without-creating-a-time-paradox/
Philosophy Paper on Possibility of Time Travel into the Past without Creating a Time Paradox. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/philosophy-paper-on-possibility-of-time-travel-into-the-past-without-creating-a-time-paradox/> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
Philosophy Paper on Possibility of Time Travel into the Past without Creating a Time Paradox [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/philosophy-paper-on-possibility-of-time-travel-into-the-past-without-creating-a-time-paradox/
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