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The Existence of Time Travel Would Invalidate Free Will

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/19/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 622 times Debate No: 89884
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (0)




Resolution: The existence of time travel would invalidate free will.
I am pro, which means that I will argue the resolution is true. Con must argue that the existence of time travel would not invalidate free will.

Round 1 is acceptance only. Other than that, there is no debate structure, but it should be remembered that making new arguments in the last round is generally frowned upon.

Time Travel - the movement of persons to a different point in time, be it in the future or past.

Free Will - "the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate" (


I would love to debate this topic with you! I am extremely interested to know your conceptialization of this consequence....

Debate Round No. 1


I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate. Looking at some of my opponent's debates, I see they are a competent, skilled debater, unlike most of the people I've been debating my last few debates. Anyway, onward!

My argument for this is quite simple. Imagine being at your computer and opening up a time travel program. You set it to exactly one day from now, press a button, and BAM! You're in the future. You've also proven that free will is false. How?

Simply put, if you can travel to different points in time, some of them in the future, then they must be set in stone. If future points in time are definite enough that they can be traveled to, then by traveling to them you are proving that whatever series of events lead to the exact moment in time that you are traveling to are destined to happen. In essence, they are forced to exist because the future is definite enough to be reached.

This same argument works even for just looking into the future - if the future can be looked into, then it must be definite and necessary. Therefore, the events leading up to it must happen and cannot be avoided, thereby invalidating free will.

With that, I turn the debate over to my opponent.


Okay, lots of moving parts...

So your claim, as I understand it is that time travel to the future, specifically, undermines the concept of free will, as if a future instance of reality exists, via experience or observation, then the future has already been mapped out, as it were.

So if we were to run with your scenario, I think it would have to violate natural laws in order to operate. And I expect that you have not dismissed/modified natural laws for this future to exist (except objects travelling faster than the speed of light). So being bound to such laws in regards to the where/when we are, would pan out as:

1. If one could travel or observe oneself in an immutable (already existent) future:

A. then it implies that the same matter can simultaneously occupy two places in time (your constant)...which is frowned upon by sane people and scientists alike.

B. It also implies, oddly enough, that the two distinct you's created by time travel would be able to rejoin/occupy the same place and time in that future, which is also violates another natural laws regarding matter that has a physical presence. (e.g., Pauli exclusion principle) My reasoning for this is that matter and time are only relevant because of causality/cause and effect/events... So the present you would be different from the future you, as causal existence has not been able to fulfill through time, making your past and future selves distinct. And two objects cannot occupy the same point in spacetime...

So my offering would be that time is not the constant, but causality is. So if we found a point in the future, it doesn't imply that we have just jumped a few points on a permanent, linear timeline, but rather, simply moved to a different point on an infinitive grid, and that our causality would follow us to through time, rather than keep going in a straight line rather we are there or not. Lol i.e., we must to be present somewhere in the universe for happening occur (to us).

And I don't believe time travel would remove us from the universe, as "matter is never destroyed/created, it only changes form" sort of thing, So as long we are matter, we are subject to causality, even if we can manipulate the fabric of time...

And as causality follows us, then we are still very much capable of free will.

Your scenario seems to suffocate itself somewhat, because the same conditions that would make a predetermined future conceivable, would also make time travel least as i conceive it.

And lastly, why must we even assume that to see our future means that it is immutable.... Can it not be the case of the ghost of Christmas future, i.e., that it is just the trajectory based on current actions? ::shrugs shoulders::

I hope you understand what I'm mind is aflame trying to pin down so many

Let me know what you think!!!
Debate Round No. 2


A good response, I must say! For this debate, I was focusing more on time travel as a concept rather than as a scientific means. However, I will still take this into consideration in my arguments.

First, let me offer some clarification. My R2 arguments were a bit bare-bone, but I did that on purpose, meaning for it to be the basic idea behind my propositions. I intend to offer a more complex argument here.

By the law of the excluded middle, we can conclude that either the future is definite or indefinite. In order for free will to exist, the future must be indefinite, since if the future were definite, then everything would be predestined, thus negating free will.

An indefinite future is a bit of an abstract idea. One way of conceptualizing it would be the multiverse theory, specifically speaking the theory that every universe and timeline that could exist does exist. For every possible decision that could be made, a world exists where it has been made. Free will could exist in such a world as decisions are not predestined. One could argue that this is really just an infinite amount of linear timelines, therefore not exactly free will. However, as I said, the multiverse is simply one way of envisioning an indefinite future. I'm just using it as an example for my argument.

So, imagine you are in your time machine again, and you travel to the future. If you successfully do so, you close off opportunities and possible routes time could have taken. You might say that the decision to time travel is what caused you to end up in the timeline you do. However, unless you only travel an extremely small time, there are bound to be more decisions that would split into different timelines along the way that you traveled.

Of course, as I have said earlier, the multiverse theory is not the only possible form of an indefinite future. I simply used it as an example for my illustration above.

Now onto rebuttals.

As per your discussion of how my concept of time travel would violate natural laws...

This is where discussions of time travel get really confusing. What exactly happens the instant something travels? I didn't really say, as I was approaching time travel as a concept without any real scientific details. The very existence of time travel seems to disobey natural laws, such as the law of conservation of matter (as you pointed out). This very law seems to make time travel impossible. Therefore, I believe this can be passed off simply to allow for a reasonable discussion.

What I was going for was an idea that objects disappear from the timeline when traveling. They spontaneously reappear at the desired time. Therefore, if a being was able to reappear in the future, and the future was indefinite, it would have to duplicate infinitely for every possible version of that future, which doesn't seem to be a sensible definition of time travel.

"And lastly, why must we even assume that to see our future means that it is immutable.... Can it not be the case of the ghost of Christmas future, i.e., that it is just the trajectory based on current actions? ::shrugs shoulders::"

The Ghost of Christmas Future was more of "This is what your future will be IF you continue like this." It was a warning. Looking into the future scientifically would show a certainty.

I look forward to your response!


Firstly, my apologies: It was not my intent to impose anything onto your concept, but as you admittedly, left it " bare bones" I simply drew on the only conceptualization available to me. And if you'll permit me to be candid in response to "I was focusing more on time travel as a concept rather than as a scientific means.", if hypotheticals are not bound to at least a minimal degree of plausibility of the possible outcome (seeing how they will play out in the real world) then we'd scarcely entertain them lol. So I think its customary to juggle some, but not all aspects of plausibility when contemplating abstractions, which is why I assumed that most natural laws remain constant, while suspending only those that would impede the the specifics of the hypothetical you proposed; The same as if I were watching a film. And in my defense, the observations in my concept were not high science, as I believe they still conform to our everyday intuitions about reality. So, rest assured that I'm quite disposed to accommodate any specification you put forth as I am, thus far, thoroughly entertained :-), but surely we would both agree that the failure to specify on the front end has kind of left us both at a

But anyway...once again into the fray...

I will say here that I have yet to wholly comprehend the de-authored view of free will. i.e., looking to the universe to discern whether freedom of choice exists, rather than looking to the source of that choice (the human author). I mean let's face it, will is very much a subjective construct..

But, this reversal of focus in regard to free will is apparent in so many concepts, in which its existence becomes the burden of the external (universe). Consider your examples which presuppose that in order for free will to exist, we would have to possess:

Omniscience: Have unfathomably profound knowledge about the universe. E.g., "the multiverse is simply one way of envisioning an indefinite future". (Figure out which is the correct view)

Omnipresence: The ability to see into the multiverses (or any other kind) to verify that free will exists, e.g., "there are bound to be more decisions that would split into different timelines along the way that you traveled".

And omnipotence: our sheer must be able to call into existence infinite realities for every decision we make. E.g., "For every possible decision that could be made, a world exists where it has been made".

I.e., such qualities that are up til now only attributed to you know who! And in the case that we ever came to possess them, would void your questioning of free will altogether, because if we were able to wield this godlike influence over the universe, there would be no question of free will...or need for your time travel experiment in order to verify

And yet, we can easily contemplate its existence or lack thereof, right here on terra firma.

And I am aware that your resolution deals with time travel (this isn't digression) I'm just making the point(s) that we are the author of will; That this free will exists (or is probable) independent of what we know about the world, or the limitations placed upon us by natural laws. So I fail to understand why the proof must lie solely in the external, rather than our judgments of our attempts to exercise it, or in the sheer ability to conjure a desire and the undertaking to bring it to fruition?

So with that bit of background lol, I return to your resolution... Specifically to causality, the construct on which we all rely intuitively to realize our will/desires, which would follow us through time. Off the grid, on the grid is immaterial, as causality follows each speck individually...(As i said, it is not subject to time, only cause and effect enacted on matter) So this will to time travel, led to BAM, the pressing of the button (cause) into to the future (effect) and into any further will-derived actions (and effects of those actions) that we might make.
The mechanics of our arrival to this future time (movement from one location in time to another) is inherent in time travel itself, so it does not necessarily infer a destiny already written, from where I stand. The only way we could know for certain is if we were able to observe the time in between i.e., when we were off the grid, and not just the destination point that we'd traveled to (set to observe). But again that would place is in two places in the universe simultaneously, which to me seems just as unsensible as the possibility of "duplicate[ing]
infinitely for every possible version of that future"

So what I'm asking for clarification on is: why does my mere arrival into a future mean that that my timeline is already set (i.e., not just causality)
and hopefully, while avoiding the pitfalls, which are:
1. if all events are predetermined my time travel would've been predetermined also...which means that I wouldn't see any other past except the past that occurred i.e., my pressing the button...

2. if i did see myself plodding along in mundane activities (not traveling in time) it would prove that we did indeed have free will...i.e., power to break away from whatever the predetermined future held for us. So time travel would ultimately prove free will not disprove it.

Hmmm??? Yes? Yes? No? I thought

Eagerly awaiting your response!!!!
Debate Round No. 3


Conspiracyrisk forfeited this round.


Oh no...where'd ya go!!!

I thought we had something....

Fun while it lasted :-)
Debate Round No. 4


Conspiracyrisk forfeited this round.


I suppose that's all folks...

Please see rounds 1-3!!!!
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Aguilajoyce 2 years ago
Not a problem!!!! It was fun while it lasted...i hope you're feeling better!!!!
Posted by Conspiracyrisk 2 years ago
I apologize for forfeiting the last two rounds. I got really sick and just wasn't up to debating. I do enjoy the discussion we had, though!
Posted by Conspiracyrisk 2 years ago
Posted by SkyLeach 2 years ago
Causative macro-displacement, a mathematical representation of the concept of time travel, violates the fundamental nature of reality. It doesn't just violate free will (assuming free will exists at all, a completely separate question).

The concept of universal time has been a cultural meme for a very long time in humanity and across all cultures. All mythologies and philosophical origin theories, even the big bang theory, depend on this concept of time.

Quantum physics, especially QFT and standing-wave theories for particle physics models, have consistently demonstrated that linear time is a function of inter-frame causality and relativity. In simpler terms, this means that linear time is an observational frame on causality created by entangled observation and causative reaction to quantum state outcomes.

Mathematically this means that any frame-shift out of sequence with the rest of the universe must out-mass the relative universe in the local frame, effectively creating a singularity.

This reinforces and supports Einstein's theory of relativity by describing a non-universal and mathematically valid explanation for limitations on the speed of light *observationally*. This does not require a universal constant or even a universally constant speed of light, but it guarantees that any measurement of causative transmission of energy within a vacuum will consistently result a relativistic space-time model wherein time and space can be conflated in the equation for the purposes of cosmological predictions.
Posted by Stonehe4rt 2 years ago
I like these types of debates, I with there was more Philosophical debates.
Posted by vi_spex 2 years ago
wind move

telportation=travel between memories
Posted by Conspiracyrisk 2 years ago
That brings up an interesting point. We do move forward in time at the same rate, but for the sake of this debate time travel refers to jumping forward or backward to a point in time you would not have reached normally.
Posted by vi_spex 2 years ago
i can time travel by being now
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