The Ship of Theseus

At Marine Knowledge we try to explore different aspects of ships, shipping jobs, marine engineering, navigation and marine related topics. Yet today we will explore a concept which is more philosophical but related to a ship so just find out what is it. The Ship of Theseus is an interesting topic that has been bothering the intellectuals for ages. The concept tries to explain a simple theory. Suppose a ship met with some accident as a result it has to be rebuilt again. In that case will the ship remain the same ship or it will change. There have been many books written on the topic and some movies have also been made. This debate has been on for years. Some believe that the ship itself will change and some say no the ship remains the same.

The Philosophical Viewpoint

Some popular philosophers like Plato and Socrates have spent a lot of time trying to explain this. The concept started from a Greek legend. There was a ship that was used by Theseus to return from Crete. This ship has one hundred and thirty oars. With time these oars started to rot and they were badly damaged. Then these oars were replaced with better planks and the ship was reconstructed. Since then the debate started if this ship still be considered to be the Ship of Theseus or it has changed.

The Ship of Theseus

The Ship of Theseus

To add to this confusion Thomas Hobbes once made another statement. He said that if these oars that were replaced were used to build another ship then would it be apt for us to say that it was still the Ship of Theseus. Some philosophers were of the opinion that if a wall develops a crack or a hole and it is filled does that mean the wall has changed. Anything that gets old has to be repaired so that they do not get damaged. If we belive that repairing will change the essence of the original structure then we will not be able to preserve any of the old assets known to man.

Other Examples

For example the axe of George Washington in this case also the handle as well as the head of the axe was replaced as it was becoming difficult to maintain it. In many museums across the world you will find a lot of things that were once used by the legends and have now been either repaired or reconstructed. These items are still displayed as originals and people come to see them. Many argue that this is nothing but just means of fooling people. It is obvious that anything that is about a thousand years old cannot be in the prime of its condition. It will decay and will have to be replaced. This is exactly why the concept of Ship of Theseus is true to some extent.

Many feel that with these repairs we can ensure that people get an idea of how the thing was originally. Repairs are justified if we want the future generations to see these items. This is true until and unless some major change is done as a result the original look of the item changes. In today’s moderns world to prove this theory the best example that we can use is that of the rock bands. Suppose there is a popular rock band and one of its members leave. However, the rock band will still continue to have the same name. Even Aristotle said the same. He said as the design and the original structure of the ship remains the same we can say that the ship is still the same. Only when the whole look of the ship changes then the essence of the ship will change too till then we can consider it to be the original ship. This philosophy has been accepted by many and is so far the most convincing analysis on the Ship of Theseus.

The Identity Crisis

The concept of Ship of Theseus is a good way to understand the identity and essence of an object. You can look really deep into the concept and still you will never be able to find a clear answer. Perhaps it is one of the questions in philosophy that can never get a clear understanding. In 2012 a movie was also made in India based on the topic of Ship of Theseus. The movie was produced by Anand Gandhi. The movie has been critically acclaimed all across the world. This is more or less the concept of the Ship of Theseus. The paradox is interesting and many people have tried to analyse the same. However different people have different views on this as a result both the aspects of the Ship of Theseus is equally popular even today. Perhaps both the schools of thought will remain to exist even in the future.

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