Dr. Mark Hinchliff: "The Mutable Future"

April 4: (Philosophy Department Colloquium)

Mark Hinchliff (Reed College)
Title: The Mutable Future
CLE A203 at 2:30pm

Abstract: That the past is necessary and the future contingent are two venerable ideas. A canonical understanding of these ideas, arising from our interest in the question of free will, is that no agent is now able to prevent any past state of affairs, but some agent is now able to prevent some future state of affairs. So if it is a contingent fact that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, there is a possible world in which one of us brings it about that a sea battle doesn't occur tomorrow. Our idea that the past is necessary also suggests a different understanding, one which we perhaps sometimes express when we say that we can't change the past. This paper explores this non-canonical idea that the past is inalterable or immutable, and the future is mutable. It aims to show how the idea of a mutable future differs from the canonical understanding of a preventable future, to show how we might address a few obvious difficulties for the view, and last, to sketch a couple of implications and connections.