Ship of Theseus

Moreno mentioned this old famous philosophy puzzle and I am interested in ILP’s answers to it.

This, like all paradoxes is just a trick question or mind game. But I note that even though the question is thousands of years old, the answer to it doesn’t seem to be on record (just as many paradoxes). Several proposed answers have been given, but I don’t find them to be the “real answer”, rather simply more complexity. What I consider to be the real answer is actually pretty simple although apparently overlooked or for some reason, never recorded. So I see this as somewhat of an IQ test for philosophers. If you don’t get it, you might still be in the same class as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Heraclitus, John Lock, and such people, so no big deal (although honestly, I have no doubt that I could find a dozen 16 year old girls in the USA who could answer the puzzle). It just seems that after thousands of years, such questions and their answers should have been well nailed down long ago.

So I have two questions really;

  1. What is the answer to the paradox?
  2. Why hasn’t the answer been recorded?


If they are replacing the parts of ships slowly and systematically, the ship would remain the same.
But, if they make all changes in one go, it would be a differnt ship.

The exact analogy is the human body. Each and every cell of our body is replaced by another one within some months, but we remain the same.

It is the question of overall spirit of anything.

There may be many reasons why people do not see it. I am not sure. Perhaps, the misunderstnding of the concept of the spirit may be one of those.

with love,

In accouantancy, Goodwill is almost the same what we assume spirit in life forms; the undelying nature or character of anything.

with love,

Are you sure about that?

John and Mark both bought new identical cars. They are neighbors. One night while they were asleep, I went over and switched the cars. The next day, they drove to work.

Who drove who’s car?

The “spirit of the thing” never changed.

as long as there are only ‘objects’ in the equation, then no. but if you had a non object e.g. colour, ideas, perception, experience, consciousness etc then replacing the parts endlessly wouldn’t necessarily affect weather or not its the same ship [or person as being said here].


water = spirit/consciousness, qualia, experience etc.

sponge = an object or collection of.

  • if contained [no water can be lost] you could endlessly remove bits of the sponge or even replace the whole thing.

not sure what occurs when waters mix. I’d suggest that these things [being ambiguous] cannot be discerned, its more how you think of a ship and even that is fluid waters in motion.

THe spirit of the things changed but too less to be recognized by the users.

They drove each other’s cars, not their own but did not realize that. Though, practically, there would be a slight difference even in two brand new and same cars.

The two materialistic things cannot be never the exact same. The difference ought to be there, noticeable or unnoticeable.

with love,

How did the spirit of them change??? :confusion-scratchheadyellow:

I think that “all of its components” means “ALL of its components”, “everything that makes it what it is”.

 I think You've got it. The ship is essentially the same ship, but phenomenally different, as, it's description (of how the parts were replaced).

 Why never recorded?  Because at the time only those to whom such paradoxes were presented couldn't understand it.  And perhaps whoever wrote it, did not think of a possible posterity's doubt over such a difference.  They were still indubitable optimists.

So you’re saying that the question got recorded and repeated for over 2000 years, yet no one bothered to answer it to those who didn’t already see the answer? Doesn’t that seem a bit odd?

And what do you mean by “phenomenally different”?? :-k

I think it’s a matter of degree and not least perception. “Any” change that’s noticed makes it “somewhat” different prior to the change assuming that our awareness of the object itself has not changed.

So the reality of it is merely our perception of it?? :confused:
The back side of the Moon doesn’t exist if no one is observing it? :astonished:

Not see but understand, not the answer, but the question.  The question implies the paradox, understanding the paradox would leave a vast majority out.  The few which understood the question, already knew the answer was implied by the question.  The third group between those two, who saw the question but did not understand the implications , are the rest of us, still dueling for the answer.

Thus never said so? … over 2000 years?

And I don’t see how the answer is implied by the question. :-k

I think this just boils down to how you define the essence of what makes it “that ship” as opposed to “a ship”.

It could have to do with something like it’s particular location in space and time, or it could have something to do with the name of the ship, as in, you change all the parts on the ship, but it’s still the same ship because it says it right there on the back, “queen of the seas” or something like that. I remember having to go over this problem quite a bit in school. At the end of the day, there are a few ways that we can go about individuating an object, and there’s problems with all those ways. The idea I think is to illustrate that, not so much to answer the question conclusively.

Well, that seems on the right track (close). But do you argue the validity of “2+2=4” in school? Why not? Once an answer is found, do people have to be confounded by and continually repeat the question for thousands of years?

I actually did argue the validity of 2+2=4.

The point is that there’s an answer, but that it’s a set of answers and not just one answer. It might be the same ship, it might not, you could define “this ship” as x or y, and then it’d still be the same ship, or you could define it as a or b and it wouldn’t be the same ship. But the answer to the paradox is just that, it’s a list of things you can’t get around, and the list of things that are left. So maybe 2 of the things left seem contradictory, like "how can this be the same ship and not be the same ship at once? And to that I reply…that’s philosophy.

The question of holding contradiction is implied in the same/different paradox, in as much as, the thoughts of formal(ideal)((identifiable)), and it’s opposite phenomenal ((not ideal)) (non identifiable, seemingly contradictory),have already been laid down at that time. The paradox is not for those laying down the paradox, only for those reading it for the first time. We are still reading the paradoxical nature of the body mind relationship.

No philosopher, has ever reach the breath of antiquity , personified by Plato.

It sounds like you are saying that the universe is just naturally paradoxical. Is that right?

… not so sure about that.

James maybe he means that language is necessarily paradoxical.