Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Michael Tooley

Abstract

The general topic of this paper is causality, or the metaphysical relationship between causes and effects. More specifically, I am writing about retrocausation – the occurrence of effects before their causes – and some related contemporary arguments. The first section covers topics in the philosophy of time, with special consideration being paid to the temporal relations between events. It is here that I defend the view of time called Growing Block Theory. The second section is about some arguments concerning the logical possibility of effects preceding their causes. After briefly explicating some arguments for and against such a possibility I critique a particularly strong argument against the logical possibility of retrocausation from causal loops and find it wanting. The third section is an account of some psychological experiments that are supposed to show that a type of retrocausation, namely precognition, has been demonstrated by research participants. I will explain some reasons why precognition is very probably not the appropriate explanation of the experimental results. The fourth section concludes this paper with a discussion about causal asymmetry, which could be a reason given for believing time is asymmetric. I claim that reality is underwritten by an objective causal asymmetry that is logically independent of the ways human beings cognize reality, but that is not to say retrocausation in a certain sense is necessarily impossible. It is because objective causal asymmetry is a contingent fact of reality that it is possible for effects to precede their causes insofar as temporally-opposite directed causal processes possibly occupy the same spatial region in at least some instances, given a causal analysis of time.

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