The Ship of Theseus

Theseus did some remarkable things back then, and that´s why the early Athenians cherished his ship. For god´s sake, he strangled a Minotaur with his bare hands! Or did he stabbed it in the throat? I don´t know, well, anyways, he was one very popular man. When he returned from Crete, the Athenians kept his ship in harbor, promising they would preserve it until the end of time.

And they did, but time is unforgiving even to hero´s relics. Eventually, a plank would rot. But that would not discourage the fervent Athenians. They would quickly rebuild a perfect replica of the plank and replace it. The thing is, over time, more an more parts would get wasted and Athenians would go and replace each one of them, until a moment in which none of the ship´s parts were actually original. Now, here´s the question that has tormented many men and women ever since:

Is that ship in the harbor, with no original parts whatsoever, the ship of Theseus? Or is it something else?

Good question. Now, for all of you left-brained readers the answer is likely obvious: No, that is not the ship of Theseus, it can be considered, at best, a great replica of the ship of Theseus. The ship was gone the moment the original parts were gone. Well, wait a second, that happened over a long period... What is that moment, then? Is it when they first replaced the first tiny bit? The last? 50% of the ship? When does something become something else? Or is it that with every little change the thing is new and loses its essence? Ufff... I don´t know that one, but for sure a ship that is built on replicas of the parts of the original is not the original.

Interesting. Then, what about , you? Yes, you are one living ship of Theseus of sorts, built on cells in constant replacement. There´s nothing of your 7 years old you in your today´s you. Are you a different thing, then? Have you lost the essence of what you were? Are you are something else now? What makes you, you? Eat that you left-brained readers!

Take these days to come up with an answer and good luck with it. Since the beginning of time, people have tried to resolve this paradox (even though it was Plutarch who formulated this as the ship of Theseus only in the first century). Among the people that have given this a try you will find Heraclitus (can you step twice into the same river?) or Aristotle, so you will be in good company.

Enjoy facing one of mankind´s deeper questions and I´ll see you next week!