Dispositionalism’s (grand)daddy issues: time travelling and perfect masks

Analysis 83 (1):40-49 (2022)
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There is a tension between Dispositionalism––the view that all metaphysical modality is grounded in actual irreducible dispositional properties––and the possibility of time travel. This is due to the fact that Dispositionalism makes it much harder to solve a potentiality-based version of the grandfather paradox. We first present a potentiality-based version of the grandfather paradox, stating that the following theses are inconsistent: 1) time travel is possible, 2) powers fully ground modality, 3) self-defeating actions are impossible, 4) time-travellers retain their intrinsic powers upon time-travelling, and 5) time-travellers are ordinary agents with basic intrinsic potentialities. We then consider a number of potential solutions, and find them wanting. We argue that the metaphysical impossibility of performing a self-defeating action acts as a necessary perfect mask––while time-travel lets us “slip” the potentiality under the mask, thus generating the contradiction. We conclude considering what are the options for the dispositionalist.

Author Profiles

Giacomo Giannini
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Donatella Donati
Università degli Studi dell'Aquila


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