Time Travel and Philosophy of Time

On a cold winter night of March, Jane finds herself thinking `If only I had invested my money on those stocks back in 2008, I would be incredibly rich by now.' All of a sudden, a mysterious woman shows up in Jane's room and offers her a life-changing opportunity. She gives her a time machine. Although scared by the unknown consequences of using such a device, out of courage and hope Jane decides to use the time machine to go back to 2008 and reveal to her younger self what she easily knows will be the top performing stocks in the next decade…

We might be acquainted with time travel stories like the one just outlined thanks to science fiction. Time travel involves traveling to different times. But, is time travel a genuine possibility? And if time travel were possible, how would it look like? What can and cannot be achieved by taking advantage of time machines? Will Jane succeed in making herself rich?

Once we attempt to answer these questions, we might find ourselves into puzzlement or run into paradoxes. Fortunately, contemporary philosophy of time can provide us with the tools to have a better understanding of time travel and the paradoxes it raises. And not only that, it turns out that thinking about time travel can teach us quite a lot about the nature of time itself. In fact, time travel raises philosophical time-related issues such as change, causation, the nature of past and future, freedom and determinism, fate, and identity over time.

In this course we will cover:

  • an introduction to different theories of time
  • whether time travel is metaphysically possible
  • some paradoxes related to time travel

Unfortunately, no plans about how to build a time machine will be provided during class (unless a time traveler from the future will join in to teach us how to build one).

PREREQUISITES:

Writing and Thinking (Fall 2018). A predisposition for abstract thinking is desirable.

Giacomo Andreoletti:

Giacomo Andreoletti studied philosophy at the State University of Milan. During his BA and MA, he mostly focused on philosophy of language working on the problem of propositional attitude reports. He achieved his PhD in Philosophy and Human Sciences at the State University of Milan in May 2017 under the supervision of Dr. Giuliano Torrengo. He also spent two semesters as a visiting scholar at Columbia University (sponsor and supervisor: Prof. Achille Varzi). His dissertation on the metaphysics of time and fatalism addressed issues related to time, free will, time travel, and the (un)changeability of past and future. A list of publications can be found here. Giacomo is also a senior member of the CPT (Centre for Philosophy of Time).