Journal Article

Newcomb's Paradox Realized with Backward Causation

Jan Hendrik Schmidt

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 49, issue 1, pages 67-87
Published in print March 1998 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 1998 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/49.1.67
Newcomb's Paradox Realized with Backward Causation

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In order to refute the widely held belief that the game known as ‘Newcomb's paradox’ is physically nonsensical and impossible to imagine (e.g. because it involves backward causation), I tell a story in which the game is realized in a classical, deterministic universe in a physically plausible way. The predictor is a collection of beings which are by many orders of magnitude smaller than the player and which can, with their exquisite measurement techniques, observe the particles in the player's body so accurately that they can predict his choice (in much the same way as we can predict the motion of celestial bodies). I argue that the player, by choosing whether to take only one box or both boxes, influences whether or not, in the past, the predictor put a million pounds into the second box. Yet, I establish that no causal paradox can arise in this set-up.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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