Journal Article

Bananas Enough for Time Travel?

Nicholas J. J. Smith

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 48, issue 3, pages 363-389
Published in print September 1997 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 1997 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Bananas Enough for Time Travel?

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This paper argues that the most famous objection to backward time travel can carry no weight. In its classic form, the objection is that backward time travel entails the occurrence of impossible things, such as auto-infanticide—and hence is itself impossible. David Lewis has rebutted the classic version of the objection: auto-infanticide is prevented by coincidences, such as time travellers slipping on banana peels as they attempt to murder their younger selves. I focus on Paul Horwich‘s more recent version of the objection, according to which backward time travel entails not impossible things, but improbable ones—such as the string of slips on banana peels that would be required to stop a determined auto-infanticidal maniac from murdering her younger self—and hence is itself highly improbable. I argue that backward time travel does not entail unusual numbers of coincidences; and that, even if it did, that would not render its occurrence unlikely.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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