I’m Still Pointlessly Concerned About the Logical Inconsistencies In The Terminator Movies

All right, I’ll admit it, I’m still bugged by something from a movie.  I have issues with inconsistencies in the Terminator movies.  I know, it’s stupid.  I know, it’s pointless.  I’m wasting my time by even caring about it.  Still, I can’t seem to help myself.

My problem centers around two things.  #1 John Connor is conceived when his father (Kyle Reese) is sent back from the future, by John Connor, to protect his mother from the terminator.  #2 Skynet is developed from parts recovered from the crushed terminator that attempted to come back in time and kill Sarah Connor.

Why do I have a problem?  Well, I am wondering what the central concept of time is in these movies.  As much as I enjoyed them, though I only saw the first two, I am having a problem pinning this down.  I don’t mind fantastical, imaginative worlds in books, movies, and such.  However I do think that creators of such works, for the most part unless there is a good reason otherwise, probably should establish how their non-normal universe functions and then stick to that.

I mean, a lot of geeks (and sometimes theoretical physicists/philosophers) have sat around and come up with theories about the flow of time.  Some would think that time is not a fixed thing, that it might be possible, if you were able to move about in time other than the normal way, to go back and alter something.  Then, when you return to “your present,” things would be changed in consequence of your change.  You all remember “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury.  However, others seem to think that time is a fixed thing, that even if you were able to travel back, you would not be able to “change anything” because you always had traveled back to that point in time and performed those exact actions.  That is what originally happened- your time travel and involvement.

Regardless, #1 and #2 above seem to suggest that the makers of the Terminator movies cannot make up their minds as to which way the time stream works in their made-up little Schwarzeneggerian universe.

However, this is not the case.  The particular Judgment Day that had occurred previously, does not occur.  I hear this is central to the third movie, but I did not feel the need to watch it.  The more important point is that Judgment Day had previously occurred (you will excuse the use of previously and subsequently which get a little weird when we are talking about them separate from time and without direct respect to actual past and future points in time).  Time travel occurs where people attempt to make changes.  Then, subsequently to the changes, that particular Judgment Day does not occur.  Since the particular Judgment Day had occurred previous to the time travel and does not occur subsequent to the time travel.  Therefore, time cannot be fixed.  The actions performed during the time travel had not always been performed.

This is in direct conflict with the discussion of #1 and #2 above.  In the movies, time is both fixed and changeable.  Ladies and Gentlemen of this “supposed” jury, this is Chewbacca.  This does not make sense.

If time is fixed, then John Connor and Skynet can set in motion events that create themselves, but the particular Judgment Day cannot fail to happen.  If time is not fixed, then the particular Judgment Day can fail to happen, but John Connor and Skynet cannot set in motion events that create themselves because they did not exist prior to the setting of those events in motion.  Whatever the rules are of this particular imagined universe, they surely must have been violated.  This does not compute.

Anyway, this is what I have a problem with.  Perhaps someone geekier than myself can point out why this is not a problem, provide an explanation how these two apparently inconsistent premises can in fact coexist.  Perhaps this is even explained in the further movies that I did not really feel like watching.  I don’t know.  All I do know is that this bugs me.

About David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson enjoys typing about himself in the third person, although he does not generally enjoy speaking in such a fashion. However, he is concerned about the Kierkegaard quote "Once you label me you negate me." He worries that if he attempts to define himself he will, in fact, nullify his existence...
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2 Responses to I’m Still Pointlessly Concerned About the Logical Inconsistencies In The Terminator Movies

  1. But especially in the philosophy literature there have.been arguments that time travel is inherently paradoxical. The most.famous paradox is the grandfather paradox you travel back in time.and kill your grandfather thereby preventing your own existence.

    • I am familiar with the paradox you mention, but it is fairly limited to the whole “what happens if you do something inconsistent with your existence motif.” Some theorized such a thing would unravel time, presuming it was possible, though it doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for the chronoguards in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. Regardless, it’s a little different to come back to be your own father, as you wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t done it.

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