On the Copying of Ideas

David Lewis Photo

David Lewis


While revisiting the article “The Paradoxes of Time Travel“, 1975, from David Kellogg Lewis, I noticed — for my surprise — how much my earlier post relates to the introductory ideas of the article. I clearly copied some ideas from him, although I was not fully aware of that while writing. There is a clear relation between the concept of personal time, from Lewis’ article, and the time perception, from my own. Also, the sole motivation for defining the idea of travel to past of future is from that article, where the concept is mentioned, although Lewis classify it as a travel to past.

Judging from now, the classification I presented — mainly the idea of continuous time travel — was deeply influenced by that article. What I did was to generalize the idea of “personal time” to the something more related to Einstein’s relativity, so it would be more close to what I understand of differences in time passing rate (and what I believe most people understand of the subject, if they understand anything at all). Thus, I could, for some kinds of time travel, argue about its physical feasibility.

Anyway, before writing the post, I did not get to the end of Lewis’ article. I told a friend I was thinking on classifying time travels and its paradoxes, and he gave me this article, from a contemporary philosopher. I started reading it, but could not resist the urge of starting my own article, so abandoned it in the middle. There it gets weird, because if I copied so much from him, I should at least have remembered when I read the article again (this time, the whole of it), but instead, the fact surprised me.

Another source of surprise is the idea of cause-effect loop, that I illustrated with a story featuring Jules Verne, and believe to be a pretty much original idea. Poor spirit of mine… don’t I know everything I dare to imagine was already imagined a thousand times before? The same idea was already in that same Lewis’ article, illustrated by the story of a time traveler who told his former self how to build the time machine, but in the part I did not read until after publishing my story.

Sure, my version of it is not very original, but was developed from a Mickey and Goofy comic book I’ve read more than ten years ago, where they travel to past and meet Jules Verne. But I only understood how serious was the matter when I found out about the closed timelike curves, and their potential effect on causality.

Lastly, I want to say that I am writing this because, after finding that Lewis’ article inspired me so much, I felt guilty of not giving proper credit. I also felt really sorry when I found he died in 2001 from health problems, so I can’t bother him with mails telling of my disagreement on his views of time paradoxes.

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