A Thought Ex-Peppermint

The story of Theseus’ Ship is a question of existence wrapped in a story of a physical constant and the inherent identity we prescribe it. It’s not a real event, it’s a thought experiment in the same vein, and as factual as the more well-known “Schrödinger’s cat”. The difference is that the question of the Ship is more applicable to everyday questions of permanence and continuity, and results in the deaths of less imaginary animals.

The story goes (and I paraphrase) thus:
Theseus was quite the strapping young lad. With a fair whack of god-blood in his veins, he went on various adventures, smacked up the Minotaur, and (most importantly today), had a ship. And boy was it a great one. When he and his crew of young Athenians returned from Crete, the ship was definitely noticed. “What a great ship!” they all cried, probably in ancient Greek.


Our hero, pictured as a young statue

At this point, the Athenians decided they would look after the ship. They agree, it’s a pretty great ship, and they really want to keep it looking it’s best. So the Athenians maintained the ship. Over time, parts of the ship invariably wear out, as the sea is a harsh mistress, and salt, water, and salty water are the natural enemies of most everything mankind builds. The Athenians meticulously replace these broken parts so that the great ship remains great.

Time marched on, and the Athenians themselves also begin to suffer the same fates as they are worn out by salt, water, and salty water. Having learnt a bit about how to keep things going in good condition, they too replace their worn out Athenians with new Athenians, and thus kept Athens great. Still the ship was maintained.

But Time….Time, Time, Time, you tenacious bastard. Time waits for no man, or ship, and our story reaches a point whereby some bright spark was replacing a board on the deck, (or adding a new oar, or something), and had a realisation. This has happened so often that the ship had at some point lost the last original element of its construction, and became a wholly replaced thing. Miss Brightspark steps back and says “hmm” – the question is raised: if no part of the original structure still remained, is it still the Ship of Theseus?

This is where the Athenians turned on each other, and Ancient Greece began it’s decline*. Athenian turned on Athenian, made their case, and then quickly added on an appendices of vulgar facts about their opponent’s mother. The battles raged, the ship was burnt down, and then no one could be sure whether the bigger travesty was the burning of Theseus’ Ship, or the burning of the Ship of Theseus.


Reenactment of the “Sinking of the USS Theseus”

It’s all a moot point; it’s a now-sunken boat. I write about this because I read an interesting article about rock bands that continue on after replacing many members, and are they still the same band?


Is A Band Without Its Original Members Still Same Band?

This article. Right here.


My favourite band recently had the lead singer replaced for a stint when he was unwell, and as he was the only original member of the band left, it made me wonder – is my favourite band close to becoming Theseus’ Six? No, no it is not. But it might be. Um.

I want to start a band. I want to make it big, and then gradually replace each of my other band members with new musicians. Then I’ll replace myself. The name of the band?

Sonic Voltron.


(“Ship Of Theseus” is, weirdly, taken)

~ by nick on January 10, 2017.

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