The Curious Link Between Free Will & Time Travel
University of Wisconsin--Stout. Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
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Philosophers have debated the meaning of free will and if people have free will at all. Despite the years of discussion, no one can be sure if free will exists. When time travel is added to the equation, the discussion becomes even more complicated. While it is currently impossible to willfully travel through time in the real world, the relationship between free will and time travel can be explored in fictional stories. By analyzing time travel stories, it is possible to conduct thought experiments about the relationship between time travel and free will. While there are many stories to choose from, Michael Crichton’s Timeline, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and The X-Files episode “Monday” will be discussed. In addition, the movies Back to the Future: Part II and The Terminator will be included to provide insight on how time travel paradoxes (specifically, the Grandfather Paradox and causal loops) can impact the free will question. Each story can be related to philosophical concepts, such as determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism.
Free will and determinism