Doing for circular time what Shoemaker did for time without change: How one could have evidence that time is circular rather than linear and infinitely repeating

Philosophies (forthcoming)
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There are possible worlds in which time is circular and finite in duration, forming a loop of, say, 12,000 years. There are also possible worlds in which time is linear and infinite in both directions, and in which history is repetitive, consisting of infinitely many 12,000 year epochs, each two of which are exactly alike with respect to all intrinsic, purely qualitative properties. Could one ever have empirical evidence that one inhabits a world of the first kind rather than a world of the second kind? We argue for the affirmative answer, contra Quine (1979), Newton-Smith (1980), and Bergström (2013). Our argument for that conclusion differs from an argument for the same conclusion due to Susan Weir, reported by Richard Sorabji (1988). Weir’s argument is probabilistic and explicitly requires having evidence against determinism. Our argument is a direct appeal to the simplicity of laws, and it involves no probabilistic component. It is modeled on Shoemaker’s (1969) argument that one could have evidence of time without change.

Author Profiles

Cody Gilmore
University of California, Davis
Brian Kierland
Boise State University


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