Time to Conceive: a New Argument for the Possibility of Time Travel
Ordinarily, philosophers arguing for the possibility of time travel restrict themselves to defending time travel against allegations of inconsistency and contradiction. These objections are usually based on particular theories about time and causality. I believe, however, that this way of arguing can be turned on its head. By using the conceivability thesis – that is, the thesis that if something is conceivable, then it is also possible – we can put forward a positive argument for the possibility of time travel, and then consider how this should inform our metaphysical views. I do this by assuming the truth of the conceivability thesis and then presenting a simple piece of time travel fiction. I argue for the conceivability of this story and, in doing so, attempt to show that the time travel journey it describes is logically possible. I then develop this argument by considering other more controversial cases of time travel. I make minor alterations to the original time travel story in order to show that there are a number of different kinds of time travel journeys (including cases of both forwards and backwards time travel) which are conceivable and, therefore, logically possible. Finally, I ask how the conceivability of different types of time travel should affect the metaphysical views we choose to adopt. I argue that since the conceivability of time travel entails the logical possibility of journeys to other times, any plausible theory of time must be able to accommodate such journeys. I also explain how the conceivability of time travel entails the logical possibility of two particularly unusual cases of causation. I argue that the conceivability of instantaneous time travel entails the logical possibility of causation at a distance, and that the conceivability of backwards time travel entails the logical possibility of backwards causation. Any plausible theory of causation must therefore be able to account for the possibility of these two types of causation. I consider one particular theory of causation which does not (namely, that put forward by D.H. Mellor), and then attempt to establish where it goes wrong.