Monday, 11 May 2015

Birmingham Workshop on Probability and Time Travel

If time travel is possible, what's the probability of it spontaneously occurring? - of time-travellers 'bootstrapping' themselves into existence by travelling back in time and creating themselves? How does physical probability, or chance, work in physical theories which allow causal loops? And what is the probability of you killing your own grandfather?

Birmingham philosophers Nikk Effingham and Alastair Wilson have been working to answer these questions, and others like them, as part of a project on Probability and Time Travel funded by the New Agendas in the Study of Time programme at the University of Sydney. If you haven't seen it already, check out Nikk's post from last year, which introduces the project and describes the first workshop, which was held in Sydney in November 2014.

To conclude this project, on May 27th and 28th the Department of Philosophy will be hosting a workshop on Probability and Time Travel. There will be six talks spread over the two days, looking at various aspects of the connection between probability and the metaphysics of time travel, and plenty of time for discussion of the issues that arise.

The speakers at the workshop have a background in various aspects of metaphysics. Sara Bernstein is a leading specialist in the metaphysics of causation and time-travel, who will be talking about the idea of a movable objective present; Graeme A Forbes will be commenting on and developing Bernstein's proposal in order to allow for probabilistic time travel. John Cusbert recently completed a PhD at the Australian National University on chance and what time-travel cases can tell us about it, and will be speaking on stability conditions on objective chance. Birmingham's own Nikk Effingham has been revisiting David Lewis' analysis of the Grandfather paradox, and will argue that logical impossibilities should in some cases be ascribed non-trivial objective chances. Daniel Nolan has written extensively on causation, counterfactuals and chances, and will be investigating how time-travel impacts on rational decision-making. Stephanie Rennick is a recent PhD from Glasgow and Macquarie, focusing squarely on time-travel and on abilities which we have in time-travel contexts, while Alastair Wilson will be using time travel as a test case to hone the distinction between causation and metaphysical grounding.

The workshop is free and open to all; details are below. For catering purposes please confirm attendance to by 14 May.

Birmingham Workshop on Probability and Time Travel

Wed 27th & Thu 28th May 2015
Room G51, ERI Building, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT

Schedule and abstracts available at:


Sara Bernstein (Duke)
John Cusbert (Oxford)
Nikk Effingham (Birmingham)
Graeme A Forbes (Kent) 
Daniel Nolan (ANU)
Stephanie Rennick (Glasgow)
Alastair Wilson (Birmingham)

This workshop is supported by the New Agendas in the Study of Time project at the University of Sydney - - and is organized in association with MIMOSA - .

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