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Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Ship of Theseus

Also check out "How do you know you're real?" and "Plato's Cave"

 

Here's an interesting thought experiment for a cool and drizzly morning like this morning: you find yourself in a place you hadn’t visited in years, walking along a street you had once strolled down, perhaps with someone who was then very special to you.

You find yourself shocked by how an experience of such vivid verisimilitude can be fossilizsed into a mere memory buried in the strata of what feels like a wholly different person, living a wholly different life — it was you who then lived it, and you who now remembers it, and yet the two yous have almost nothing in common. They now lead different lives, love different loves, dream different dreams. Hardly a habit unites them. Even most of the cells in the body striding down that street are different.

What, then, makes you you? And what is inside that cocoon of certitudes we call a self? It’s an abiding question with which each of us tussles sometimes, and one which has occupied some of humanity’s most fertile minds. The ancient Greeks addressed it in the brilliant 'Ship of Theseus' thought experiment.

Two millennia before modern psychologists came to think about it, the great Greek historian and writer Plutarch examined it more lucidly than anyone before or since. In a brilliant thought experiment known as 'The Ship of Theseus', or Theseus’s paradox, Plutarch asks: "If the ship on which Theseus sailed has been so heavily repaired and nearly every part replaced, is it still the same ship — and, if not, at what point did it stop being the same ship?"

So while you wait for the day your ship will come in, ask yourself which one you're waiting for! ☺


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