Philosophy Fridays: Is Time Travel Possible?

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Is time travel possible?” in under 700 words. Heh.

Pop Scientists with a rudimentary Quantum-Leap understanding of relativity quickly answer “YES!” If space-time is the like the outer-edge of our dimension, and if you’re moving at the speed of light with a constant stream of energy, we can go back to another point of space-time. After all, all moments of space-time are equally real in Einstein Physics!

Well, not really: it was the Minkowski interpretation of special relativity that gave us a tenseless view of time—and even when you get that, the idea of time travel is more of a forward moving thing than a back moving unless you’re talking about tachyons. A person traveling at the speed of light might travel for a year and come back and it would be in the future—not the past.

But blah-blah whatever; that doesn’t really address the real problem: paradoxes.

If a person is able to time travel, they should be able to go back in time and marry their own grandmother. Or worst, kill her. So you time travel, get into a car accident, kill your Grandmother so that you’re never born. But how did you go back to kill her if you were never born?

In any case, if time traveling happened at some point in our future we should have seen them already. Guys who go back and speak about future events with clarity (and resulting in the same paradoxes). My great grandchildren will hop back and tell me about the stock market boom so that I can buy-buy-buy and sell at the right point.

But that dovetails back to the paradox.

So maybe this is more like Sliders where you don’t really time-travel but jump sideways into an alternate part of the multi-verse. In this infinite multi-verse, every possibility pans out. So when you travel fast enough, in the right direction, you jump cross-wise into that alternate universe.

Which gets really bizarre.

I mean, if the multi-verse is an infinite series of universes with every possibility panning out, then why is it that the time travel arrives at a universe close to our time line at all? Is the multi-verse governed by a law of nearness to our own? How near is near? I mean, would you quantum leap into a two second past of a universe where you decide not to time travel? Or, why don’t we quantum leap into the parallel universe where unicorns have evolved to the point of making walking talking devices?

And if the multi-verse contains every infinite possibility, isn’t there a parallel universe where some individual (a version of Me, or You) has gotten the ability to destroy the entire multi-verse—yours included? I mean, it’s part of the possibilities so it only makes sense that somewhere, a version of you has destroyed all possible worlds meaning that you don’t exist anymore. Your Sliding self is just…what a ghost?


So maybe what we have his time-traveling with limits. Maybe there isn’t an unlimited amount of possibilities at all; maybe there is no way to even touch the other universes (because that invariably leads to the combination of those two universes). Maybe, even going back in time is more like a window: we have no way to touch events, no way to interact with them, and we’re not even sure if we’re watching our events.

But we still have our Quantum Leaps, Star Gates, Sliders, and our Back to the Futures which show that it’s all, at the very least, imaginable. If we have a wormhole, a black hole, a solar flare, or a Flux Capacitor: anything is imaginable, right?

I guess there’s only one way to answer the question “Is time travel possible?” Sure, if we’re talking about the imaginary. Anything can be imagined (except the logically impossible). But it’s exceedingly unlikely.

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8 replies on “Philosophy Fridays: Is Time Travel Possible?”

AT the signpost up ahead you are just entering in the Twilight Zone ,tuti tuti tuti tuti tuti tuti turooonnnnnnnnn

I don’t find the paradox argument convincing as an argument against the possibility of time travel. Here’s why. The argument’s actual logical structure goes more like this than how you presented:

If A is possible, then C is possible. But C contradicts true statement B. Nothing can contradict a truth. Therefore A is not possible.

A is time travel. B is your actual past. C is the contradiction of the actual past where you kill your grandfather before your father was conceived.

But a better way to think about it is this:

If A is possible, then C seems possible. But C contradicts true statement B. Nothing can contradict a truth. Therefore C is not possible. So if A is possible, C would not happen.

I *think* I mentioned the possibility of someone timetraveling but not changing anything via watching or, I guess, being a participant in history. Like Jesus Christ a person could say, ignoring all his claims, he was a time traveler. So that a person might be able to time travel but not change anything that later happens.

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