In his analysis, Rudolf Steiner states that time travel can be defined as an act of moving from one point in time to another, without necessarily experiencing the intermediary period at a normal rate. This implies traveling from one period to another, like one would travel from one geographical location to another. Thus, time travel involves going to the past, or to the future with the help of a device known as a time machine. Historically, time travel has been the subject of numerous science fiction books and short stories to a point that it is seemingly hard to determine when exactly these theories first emerged. Freedom of will, or rather free will can be defined as the capability to rationally choose a specific course of action form a number of possible alternatives, without being compelled by external forces. Free will is basically about being responsible for one’s actions without having anyone else to blame, given that the consequences result from a course of action that has been picked voluntarily and with full knowledge. Nonetheless, freedom of will continues to pose a challenge in its various dimensions with regards to what really constitutes freedom of will in the various circumstances in which it has been examined. For over two millennia, the subject of free will continues to intrigue scholars worldwide.
The given paper examines whether the possibility of time travel poses any special problem for freedom of will with a certain consideration for what really constitutes freedom of will under specified circumstances.
TIME TRAVEL AS A HYPOTHETIC POSSIBILITY
Nowadays, it is largely considered safe to only think of time travel hypothetically, given it has not been achieved or proven possible up to this moment in time. After so many years of studying space and time, scientists are yet to convince the populace that time travel is actually possible, and thus, the subject remains in the confines of the entertainment industry as a feature in amusement parks and science fiction.
Putting ourselves in the hypothetic situation, in which time travel is possible, would open up numerous doors that are currently tightly sealed. First, as it is argued that every action has an equal but opposite reaction, the possibility of traveling into the past or the future would present individuals and even communities the opportunity to rewrite history and even alter the future. In this sense, people will be able to correct their actions and eventually avoid the consequences of what they do. They will be able to predict the bad situations in their paths, and thus, strive to avoid them as they live their real lives. The ability to see the future and visit the past from time to time would eventually lead to a society, in which everyone strives to make their lives perfect. Mistakes will not be easy to come by, as everyone will be going back to their past to correct them. Basically, the world would have no history considering everyone would be too busy correcting the records whenever it suited them. A world in which time travel is possible and practiced would thus be a very confused one. Also, criminals along with other narcissistic individuals would gladly go back to the past or to the future to ensure that their lives are up to their own expectations, even at the expense of other individuals. Therefore, it would create a relatively self-centered society, in which every individual would look out for him/herself, regardless of how it would affect the others.
FREEDOM OF WILL
Rewriting history, along with correcting one’s mistakes or altering one’s path into the future is a serious problem to the freedom of will. Freedom of will in this sense implies the capacity to make a choice rationally, without being influenced or compelled by any external factors, and in full knowledge of the available options. Thus, freedom of will consists of the following factors: the ability to rationally select an option in terms of a course of action when presented with various alternatives, and secondly, of being fully informed of the available alternatives along with their consequences. Primarily, freedom of will require that one has options of courses of action, and fully understands each option, and can consequently make a rational choice on which course to take.
TIME TRAVEL AND FREEDOM OF WILL
It is in the interest of one’s freedom of will to fully understand the available courses of action along with the consequences of each. The possibility of time travel removes the need for rationality in selecting a course of action, by presenting the individual with an opportunity to go back in time and change their choice. It makes the individual a slave to their own impulses by encouraging irrationality in the way people act. In one way or another, the individual is no longer capable of rational thinking, but rather indulges their impulses and whimsical intuitions; thus, more often than not landing in trouble and going back in time to try again. It creates a vicious cycle, in which people will be engrossed in correcting their past to a point that they may completely stop living in the present, and thus, become prisoners of the past.
A significant aspect of time travel is the ability to walk into the future and experience it, and possibly alter it or use the gained knowledge to chart out the present. Freedom of will requires rational thinking in choosing a course of action from several available alternatives. Seeing the long-term consequences of one’s actions in some way robs the individual of the capability to make choices without external influence. Once people see the consequences of their actions, they are compelled to alter them for the best possible outcomes. In this sense, the actions will be dictated by their future needs and expectations. The population will thus be more focused on the future; hence, neglecting the present to appear inconsequential. The external factor that will be driving the actions of these time travelers will be their future needs and expectations. These appear relatively internal, but it is crucial to remember that these expectations and needs are practically planted into their minds by the society in which they live. They would possibly seek to be wealthy, powerful and highly connected individuals in the future, thus, compelling them to alter their past and chart their future towards activities that are aligned with these goals and objectives.
While freedom of will requires rationalized considerations before choosing a specific course of action, the ability to foresee the consequences of these actions actually eliminates the freedom in the individual’s choice. Taking chances is a rational step, where the chances are taken based on the possibility of success. Taking chances, when the outcome is well known, often eliminates the ‘chances’ aspect, as an individual indulges in a calculated move, while looking forward to a specific outcome. Here, the move is compelled by the need for that outcome, and it may thus be subconsciously or even consciously against the individual’s will, but becomes justifiable as a means to an end.
Freedom of will does not only requires the absence of external factors in the form of pressure from peers, family members or authority figures, but also from self-imposed definitions and expectations of good and evil, right and wrong, failure and success, as well as poor and rich. The process of People going back in time to rewrite history, or going forward to establish the consequences of their actions in order to make the right choices by the society’s parameters, constitutes a threat to freedom of will. The society already controls people’s wills by imposing specific definitions of moral and ethical actions, and it would be negligent to assume that this very society would not compel people to alter their actions if they can travel through time. In a situation in which time travel is possible, the world will be riddled with various aspects of capitalism, materialism, sexual repression, narcissism, metro sexuality, and many other negative constructs that are currently manifested in the society.
It is also important to consider that not every individual will be interested in creating a perfect legacy for themselves, even in the eventuality of time travel possibilities. These will be the victims of circumstances, who will actually have to bear the brunt of a consistently rewritten history. People will be able to evade their timely deaths, and even choose their children, thus, disturbing the balance of nature. Those avoiding the time travel will then be left to cater for the flaws by dying before their time, losing wealth and even spouses to the plotters of history, and at some point being made ‘unlucky’ or victims of severely unpleasant circumstances in the place of others. They will be made into puppets and scapegoats to be played around, and take the place of the time travelers in all the bad incidents in life. Their free will would in this case be nonexistent.
Freedom of will is a volatile subject, and briefly, it requires that one makes a decision with full information on the consequences of that decision, and without external influence. Time travel basically upsets this balance by ensuring that some people have more advantages than others when making decisions. They are able to know far more than they should, or they have the chance to go back and align their actions to their goals and objectives in the future. This future is then constructed on societal definitions and not personal desires, thus, violating freedom of will.
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