Ship of Theseus- what makes you?

Credits- Medium

Ship of Theseus is a paradoxical philosophical theory. It was first found in the writings of a greek philosopher called Plutarch. Theseus was the founder king of Athens. Plutarch writes about Theseus going on a voyage with his crew members. During the journey, they decide to replace the old wooden planks with new ones. They threw away all the old planks and replaced it with new pieces of woods. This leads to the question- is this the same ship that left from athens? Or is it a different ship because every single piece of wood has been replaced? What if there were still 2 old pieces? Would that change the answer?

Thomas Hobbes took this theory a little further. What if a scavenger collects all the old parts the crew members threw in the sea and builds a ship? Two ships arrive at the final port A) the ship made of new planks and B) the ship made up of old planks by scavengers. Now which one is the real ship of Theseus?

A theory called the Mereological theory of identity (MTI) states that the identity of anything is based on its components. So if we try to solve the ship of Theseus by this theory then we will have to conclude that the ship he originally left on and the scavenger-made ship are the same. In other words, we can say A=C. But this would mean that Theseus switched ships during his journey which he did not. Or we can just say that A=B which means the original ship = the newly made ship. But to say A=B would imply that B is not equal to C which would raise doubts because A and C are made up of the same parts. We concluded that A and B are equal even when they are not even made up of the same parts.

Credits – Ship of Theseus

Of course, the Ship of Theseus is a larger issue than ships. What is it that makes you yourself? Is it your physical characteristics? If that was the case then every time you cut your hair, you’d become a different person. Is it your feelings and thoughts? Then every time you forget some memory or have a change of heart, you will not be you anymore. People change over time and still believe they are the same from the core. What is it that makes us? This debate goes on to this day.

There is a film named on this topic. It is directed by anand gandhi. It is undoubtedly the best film i’ve ever seen in my entire life. It explores this concept, dividing it into 3 different stories of a blind women, A monk who’s fighting for animal rights and a businessman wanting to do seek an experience out of his bureaucratic life. The story merges in the end. This movie changed my outlook forever.