Theseus and his ship

The Ship of Theseus (A Puzzle)

I came across a wonderful thought puzzle for people interested in reading philosophy. Let’s close our eyes and envision a Greek hero named Theseus, a man known for sailing around the Mediterranean Sea doing hero-like things. He slays evil creatures, saves villages from destruction, on so on. While on one of his many adventures, he notices that all this sailing in the salty sea has caused some wear and tear on his boat. Being a handy fellow, he pulls over and replaces a board in the hull of his ship that has rotted away. After ten years of battling evildoers and replacing rotted boards, he has replaced all of the boards in his ship.

“Question: Did Theseus still have the same ship the he had at the beginning? Or was it a new ship?” (Huemer p.2).

You can jump to a Yes/No answer quickly, or you can consider several ideas at play here. For example, what does it mean to be a ship? If it’s not longer the same ship, how many boards must be replaced before the ship changes identity? If he tossed all the rotted boards into the sea and a peasant collected them all, only to build a ship – does that peasant now have Theseus’s original vessel?

Have fun chewing on that one for the day.

Until tomorrow, read slowly – take notes – apply the ideas.



Works Cited:

Huemer, Michael. Knowledge, Reality, and Value: A Mostly Common Sense Guide to Philosophy. Michael Huemer, 2021.

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