Freshman Seminar: Time Travel and Its Paradoxes

Have you ever wondered whether one can travel back in time to kill one's grandfather before he can sire any offspring? If so, this seminar is for you. We will discuss the logic, the philosophy and the physics of time travel and of time machines. We will do this primarily for our intellectual entertainment, but also in order to gain an introduction to some basic notions in the philosophy and metaphysics of science.

Prerequisites: Please contact the Undergraduate Advisor in Philosophy, Nancy Guerrero, for information concerning registration. Her phone number is 858-534-3077 and her email is

Course Materials

Course materials such as lecture notes, handouts, etc will be made available as they will be used in class. (Links are not active yet)

For each meeting, the assigned texts must be read in advance, apart from the first meeting for which you don't need to read anything. All texts will be made available through e-reserves:

  • Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder", in Susan Schneider (ed.), Science Fiction and Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell (2009), 287-296.
  • Robert A Heinlein, "All you zombies", in his The Best of Robert Heinlein (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1973).
  • Robert A Heinlein, "By his bootstraps", in K. Amis and R. Conquest (eds.), Spectrum: A Science Fiction Anthology (London: Science Fiction Book Club, 1963).
  • Chris Smeenk and Christian Wüthrich, "Time Travel and Time Machines", forthcoming in C. Callender, The Oxford Handbook of Time, Oxford University Press; preprint available online.
  • David Lewis, "The paradoxes of time travel", American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (1976): 145-152.
  • Paul Davies, "How to Build a Time Machine", Scientific American, September 2002, pp. 50-55.
  • David Deutsch and Michael Lockwood, "The Quantum Physics of Time Travel", Scientific American, March 1994, 68-74.

Link to this course's e-reserves page