Causing Yesterday’s Effects

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 12 (1):145 - 161 (1982)
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In this paper I wish to examine the claim that it would be possible for us now to do something which would be the posterior efficient cause of some past event. I am not prepared to discuss the physics of elementary particles, and I will not consider what is sometimes called time reversal. Rather my analysis will be limited to cases in which it is alleged that we, in a world of middle-sized physical objects where most causes precede or are simultaneous with their effects, could conceivably do something so that something else should have happened. I will argue that some of the cases which meet this description are indeed backwards causation if one is prepared to make certain assumptions about time. I will not evaluate these assumptions; rather I will try to clarify them and to make plain their implications for causality. For the argument about backwards causation is most fundamentally, or so I will try to show, an argument about the nature of time.



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Lynne Spellman
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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References found in this work

Bringing about the past.Michael Dummett - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (3):338-359.
Fatalism.Richard Taylor - 1962 - Philosophical Review 71 (1):56-66.
The Problem of Knowledge.G. P. Henderson - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (30):95-96.
Why Cannot an Effect Precede its Cause.Max Black - 1955 - Analysis 16 (3):49-58.
Leaving the past alone.Samuel Gorovitz - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (3):360-371.

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