SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Time Travelling in the Block Universe: Is There Room for Free Will?
(Metaphysics and Ontology, Englisch)

A In the discussions regarding free will and determinism there was a proposal given by Carl Hoefer in the article "Freedom from the Inside Out" (2002) which suggested that free actions are compatible with determinism if we accept the Block Universe theory. However, recently, in a paper by Francisco José Soler Gil and Manuel Alfonseca (2016), a thought experiment about time travelling agents has been proposed as a difficulty to Hoefer's theory. I will attempt to briefly analyze this thought experiment and maintain that the objection raised by Soler Gil and Alfonseca may be answered in a satisfactory way without denying the compatibility between free will and the Block Universe.

Hoefer did not consider that the problem of free will was with determinism, but with our conception of time. Thus he uses the distinction between A series time and B series time given by John Ellis McTaggart (1908) in order to illustrate his view. We perceive time as an A series: we think that the present is all that exists, that the past is somehow fixed and unchangeable and that the future is open to many possibilities. It is this common sense view of time that conflicts with our concept of free will, not determinism. If we view time as a B series, then we may find free will to be compatible with it. (Hoefer 2002, pp. 203) Since B series time can work only in a Block Universe theory (consisting of three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension), Hoefer proposes that we accept free will as being compatible with it.

In light of this, Soler Gil and Alfonseca wish to show that within the Block Universe, there are specific cases in which the actions of an agent in the future are logically entailed by previous states of the world, namely, the behaviour of that agent in the present. They propose a thought experiment in the form of two scenarios that involve time travelling agents and the entanglement of actions. Through these scenarios they attempt to prove that unavoidable determination of actions does indeed occur in the Block Universe. (Soler Gil, Alfonseca 2016, pp. 94)

My proposal would be that a Lewisian account of time travel paradoxes could help with formulating a response to this objection.


Carl Hoefer (2002). Freedom from the Inside Out. Royal Institute of Philosophy, Supplement, 50, pp 201-222 doi:10.1017/S1358246100010572

Francisco José Soler Gil and Manuel Alfonseca (2016). Philosophia. Vol 76, No. 1, pp. 85-101

Chair: Markus Hierl
Zeit: 16:00-16:30, 12. September 2018 (Mittwoch)
Ort: SR 1.006

Bogdan Andrei Dumitrescu
(University of Bucharest, Romänien)

I am an MA student at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Bucharest, Romania. I have started my BA studies in 2014 and I have graduated in June 2017. Currently, I am in the first year of the MA Programme "Analytic Philosophy". My research interests are in the fields of metaphysics, ontology and meta-ethics. I am focused on the problem of free will, determinism and causality and also on emotivism in meta-ethics.

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