Synthese 169 (1):91-124 (2009)

Authors
Chris Smeenk
University of Western Ontario
Christian Wüthrich
University of Geneva
Abstract
We address the question of whether it is possible to operate a time machine by manipulating matter and energy so as to manufacture closed timelike curves. This question has received a great deal of attention in the physics literature, with attempts to prove no- go theorems based on classical general relativity and various hybrid theories serving as steps along the way towards quantum gravity. Despite the effort put into these no-go theorems, there is no widely accepted definition of a time machine. We explain the conundrum that must be faced in providing a satisfactory definition and propose a resolution. Roughly, we require that all extensions of the time machine region contain closed timelike curves; the actions of the time machine operator are then sufficiently "potent" to guarantee that closed timelike curves appear. We then review no-go theorems based on classical general relativity, semi-classical quantum gravity, quantum field theory on curved spacetime, and Euclidean quantum gravity. Our verdict on the question of our title is that no result of sufficient generality to underwrite a confident "yes" has been proven. Our review of the no-go results does, however, highlight several foundational problems at the intersection of general relativity and quantum physics that lend substance to the search for an answer.
Keywords Philosophy   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language   Logic   Epistemology   Computer Science, general   Philosophy of Science
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Reprint years 2009
DOI 10.1007/s11229-008-9338-2
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References found in this work BETA

Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1974 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (3):602-605.
Quantum Gravity.Carlo Rovelli - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Time Travel and Time Machines.Chris Smeenk & Christian Wuthrich - 2011 - In Craig Callender (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 577-630.
Global Spacetime Structure.John Byron Manchak - 2013 - Cambridge University Press.
Malament–Hogarth Machines.J. B. Manchak - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):1143-1153.
Epistemic Holes and Determinism in Classical General Relativity.Juliusz Doboszewski - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):1093-1111.
Time Travel and Modern Physics.Frank Arntzenius - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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