Branching and (in)determinism

Philosophical Papers 42 (2):151-173 (2013)
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At a first glance, and even at a second one, it seems that if time is linear the threat of determinism is more severe than if time is branching, since in the latter case the future is open in a way it is not in the former one where, so to speak, there exists only one branch – one future. In this paper, I want to give a 'third glance' at this claim. I acknowledge that such a claim is intuitive (this is the first glance) and that it is also meaningfully and interestingly defended in recent literature where branching time is either said to imply indeterminism or at least to be compatible with it. To try to make my third glance as precise and as fleshed out as possible, I shall first concentrate on what 'branching' is or could be, and I shall discuss various versions and interpretations of this view. I shall then (more quickly) turn my attention to what determinism is or could be, and I will distinguish three (well-known) kinds of it – focusing mainly on 'metaphysical determinism'. Having these tools in hand, I will then ask (and answer) the question whether branching time helps with avoiding determinism or not. As we shall see, it is incorrect to think that under the branching hypothesis the threat of determinism is any smaller – rather, I will argue that if one has reasons to think that determinism is true, branching will not help, and that the issue of branching versus linear time is then actually neutral with respect to the question whether determinism or indeterminism is true.

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Jiri Benovsky
University of Fribourg


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