Causationally Speaking

It’s quite possible that the future can influence the past. Granted, in an empirical sense, the future will always happen after the past – otherwise it wouldn’t have the right to bear the name ‘futurus’[1] – but that’s not to say that the epistemic future, the knowledge of the future, does not play a part in what happens in the present.

Take, for instance, the case of Middle Knowledge[2] at its simplest: assumption of a friend’s behaviour (this example provided first by Schleiermacher). One could assume that a gentle friend who has always acted kindly in the face of bullies would do so again if she found out that she was being talked about behind her back. However, this information is not causal and the friend always has a chance to act differently – to thrash out against her personality determinate.

Although the information itself may not be physically causal, there is no denying that what one thinks of the future shall influence it. In the case of your friend: one might predict that she would not harm her bullies and thus would reveal the facts of their taunting; if one knew otherwise, it might shape the future different that one might not be the person to reveal the information.

I posit that it is a common misconception to believe that the future occurs in one’s thoughts linearly after the past. After all, we often create futures of our own in our present minds. Within those, we perceive the world around us as altered – a ‘pseudo-future’, if you may – in order to reflect on upon a future that is still yet to happen. Yet, we act as if this future has happened that we feel the need to contemplate it.

Thus, there is no linearity in the pseudo-future and past. Indeed, if one believes that time works on a flux rotation[3], then it is highly logical that ideas of past, present and future are in total flux, too.

Certainly, we can apply the present to the future, but it’s not wrong to say that we can apply the future to the present, or even to itself. In this way, the incredibly human ability of introspection and deduction leads to the future to influence the past.


[1] Rough Latin for ‘it will be’

[2] See Boethius for further reading

[3] (Or anything one might find on Doctor Who!)

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