A Blast From The Past

The Philosophers' Magazine 77:82-86 (2017)
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That we find the idea of travelling in time, and in particular travelling backwards in time, fascinating, is evidenced by the plethora of new science fictions shows depicting time travel that hit our TV screens in 2016. I love time travel shows, and I can hardly keep up. In almost all cases these shows depict what philosophers call inconsistent time travel stories: stories that commit what my colleague Nick Smith (The University of Sydney) calls the second time around fallacy. These stories depict individuals travelling back in time (or in some cases sending a signal back in time) in order to change some past event (or, in some cases, to try and mitigate the changes brought about by some other time travellers). It’s easy to see why these storylines are captivating. They ask us to imaginatively entertain questions about the robustness of the present. We are asked to ponder to what extent the way things are now is the product of fluky events, so that had the past been ever so slightly different, the present would be very different indeed. These questions are intriguing because we all wonder to what extent our present selves are the result of choices we made, where we could so easily have made others, and to what extent who we are is most robust, resilient under small changes in our past decisions.
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