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A Time Travel Dialogue

John W. Carroll

Credits and Acknowledgements

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1A Time Travel Dialogue grew out of many years of teaching metaphysics to some exceptionally bright, eager, and hardworking students. From the outset, it has been a stimulating, collaborative project between myself and all my metaphysics students.

2In the spring semester of 2000, I taught an undergraduate course in metaphysics at North Carolina State University that was structured around the question of whether time travel is possible. Traditional metaphysical issues, such as causation, identity over time and free will were addressed vis-à-vis this pedagogically unifying question. The class was broken up into groups which in turn wrote various parts of a dialogue whose structure was based on that of John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978). Four students from that class (authors Beth Ehrlich Slater, Kevin Harrison, Stuart Miller, and Nathan Sasser) and I continued to refine and rework this dialogue in an independent study course during the fall of 2000.

3In the spring semesters of 2002 and 2003, I taught a total of four more versions of this course. The students from these courses were given the opportunity to add to the work that was already done by doing substantial rewriting of the existing dialogue or adding discussions of new topics. In the fall of 2002, three students from the spring 2002 classes (authors Steven Carpenter, Stephen Sutton, and Robert Todd) took the dialogue to the next level, incorporating graphs, the first discussion of presentism, and giving the dialogue a much more sciency feel. In the spring of 2003, author Laura Wingler contributed a substantial rewrite of the day on causal loops.

4In the spring of 2006, students in my honors seminar on time travel were invited to add to the dialogue by incorporating discussion of multi-dimensional time. Author Diana Tysinger followed up in the spring of 2007 building on her work in the course by providing much of the original content on multi-dimensional time travel. This resulted in a slight reorientation of the entire dialogue. In the spring of 2011, author Kevin Martell did a first formulation of a detailed discussion of Friday’s experimental results using Meiland’s model of time. I have simplified the discussion by having Tad propose a simpler model that is very much in the spirit of Meiland’s. Beginning in the summer of 2013, Gray Maddrey took the dialogue to publication by building more detail into the discussion of the Friday results; he also worked through the entire dialogue to make the prose more fun to read and in line with the new results and discussion he added to Friday.

5Though many, many other students made important contributions besides these primary authors/writers, special mention is due Evan Johnson for his suggestions on the cover design, Chris Streshe for his work on presentism, David Schlorff for his work on the grandfather paradox, Jay Hodges for his work on causal loops, and Kristoff Kleiner for his work on multi-dimensional time. Jay and also Melissa Schumacher have gone on to do their own research on time travel and remain trusted advisors. Allyson Hutchinson was a terrific philosophical ally on all topics temporal, metaphysical, and web.

6The philosophical community of time-travel enthusiasts is large and growing. There are too many to list all of those who have shaped my own thinking and, many a time, brightened my day, but Sara Bernstein and John Roberts lead the way. Larry Blanton and the University Honors Program at North Carolina State have been a constant source of support for my teaching. Thanks also to the North Carolina State Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies for its support of my teaching and financial support for this project as it moved to publication. Michael Pendlebury, the department head, and his administrative staff of Ken Peters and Ann Rives are terrific colleagues and friends. Thank you to my wife, Ann Carroll, for patiently working with me to make the current images. Three referees for Open Book Publishers provided very useful comments. Special thanks to Brad Skow for detailed and insightful comments on the entire manuscript. Open Book’s vision of open access publishing drew me in, but the efficiency and expertise of their staff has been absolutely first rate; Open Book has been every bit as excited about A Time Travel Dialogue as my students and I are.

7The dialogue is a work by my students. I have been closely involved by virtue of being the one to expose the students to the metaphysics of time travel and in doing the substantial editing needed to make all the different student contributions fit together into a coherent whole. Still, the students have done the bulk of the work. The authors/writers are a group of especially bright students, several of them former North Carolina State honors students, many now with graduate degrees and successful careers. It has been a joy to be back in touch with them all. The combination of their cleverness, their devotion, and their sense of humor has produced something remarkable.

8July 3, 2014


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