- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Ship of Theseus1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Statistics" above.
Write-up2 (as at 17/08/2018 21:59:02): Ship of Theseus
- There’s no Stanford entry on this topic per se, so see Wikipedia (Wikipedia: Ship of Theseus) for an introduction.
- The original version, recounted by Plutarch, just considers whether an artifact (specifically a ship) can continue the same thing if its parts are gradually replaced until all the original parts have been replaced.
- Hobbes added the further paradox of collecting up the replaced parts and assembling them into a rival claimant to be the original ship.
- There are various “minimalist” cases in popular culture whereby half of an artifact is replaced, followed by the other half, and maybe the process is then repeated.
- The traditional example is “grandfather’s axe” (the blade and the handle being successively replaced).
- A more recent one is “Trigger’s Broom”, from Only Fools and Horses, where the broom handle and head are successively replaced.
- I’m greatly attracted to David Lewis4’s solution5 to the Hobbesian version of the Ship of Theseus thought experiment6, but need to consider alternative solutions that don’t depend on Perdurantism7, and whether this case is really relevant to personal identity.
- Is there anything special about artifacts8 that makes identification arbitrary or a matter of convention9, while the continued identity of a person10 (from the first-person perspective11, whatever society – which only has a third-person perspective – may say) is not arbitrary?
- Organisms12 – it is said – do replace all their parts in the course of their lives, yet we are sure that the organism persists. Also, the matter that is lost and replaced are not “parts” in the way that planks of a ship are parts. It’s only in transplant surgery when parts properly so-called are replaced.
- However, is there a fact of the matter whether the repaired ship or the reconstructed ship is the “true” ship?
- The minimalist case is interesting because it presses our intuitions. Personally, I don’t think half or any large part of an artifact can be replaced while the thing remains the same, but this may just be a prejudice. Habituation comes into consideration – just as assimilation of new matter is important to organisms. If we become habituated to some major change in a building, say, then we may agree that it has persisted. Then we may become habituated – over generations – to the replacement of the other half. Then – if persistence is identity-preserving – we must be prepared to say – given the logic of identity13 – that the original building is identical to the current one, even if it looks nothing like it.
- I have such a conundrum with my house, where there’s a proposal to rebuild the front portion14.
- Returning to the specific case of the Ship, and generally where individuals lose parts, we need to consider what the status of the lost part is:-
- When a bicycle is disassembled with the intention of reassembling it again later, its parts are not released but merely dispersed and it becomes a scattered object15.
- However, when an object loses a part in the normal case of wear and tear, that part – unless the artifact can be mended by having the part re-attached – is not dispersed but is returned to the environment for use elsewhere and is no longer associated with the object of which it once formed a part.
- The same can be said where parts – in particular, planks – are removed and replaced. The ship (in this case) no longer has a lien over them.
- If this account is correct, it solves Hobbes’s problem of the Ship of Theseus without the need for perdurantism16, though this may still be useful for other puzzles of fission17.
- For a page of Links18 to this Note, Click here.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read19, include20 the following:-
- "Chandler (Hugh S.) - Theseus' Clothes-Pin", Chandler, 1984
- "Hughes (Christopher) - An Incredible Coincidence?", Hughes, 1997
- "Lowenthal ( David) - Material Preservation and Its Alternatives", Lowenthal, 1989
- "Marshall (Richard) & Olson (Eric) - Eric T. Olson: The Philosopher with No Hands", Marshall & Olson
- "Noonan (Harold) - The Reduplication Problem", Noonan
- "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death", Olson
- "Quine (W.V.) - Identity: an Excerpt From Quiddities", Quine
- "Sider (Ted) - The Four-Dimensional Picture", Sider
- "Simons (Peter) - Parts: A Study in Ontology - Introduction", Simons
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- "Barnett (David) - The Problem of Material Origins", Barnett, 2005
- "Burke (Michael) - Cohabitation, Stuff and Intermittent Existence", Burke, 1980
- "Carter (William) - Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission", Carter, 1983
- "Davis (Lawrence H.) - Smart on Conditions of Identity", Davis, 1973
- "Doyle (Robert O.) - The Ship of Theseus", Doyle
- "Fine (Kit) - A Counter-Example To Locke's Thesis", Fine, 2000
- "Gallois (Andre) - The Puzzle Cases", Gallois, 1998
- "Garrett (Brian) - Noonan, 'Best Candidate' Theories and the Ship of Theseus", Garrett, 1985
- "Goodman (Charles) - Vaibhāṣika Metaphoricalism", Goodman, 2005
- "Heller (Mark) - The best candidate approach to diachronic identity", Heller, 1987
- "Hershenov (David) - Can There Be Spatially Coincident Entities of the Same Kind?", Hershenov, 2003
- "Horvath ( Christopher D.) - Some Questions about Identifying Individuals: Failed Intuitions about Organisms and Species", Horvath, 1997
- "Hughes (Christopher) - Same-kind coincidence and the ship of Theseus", Hughes, 1997
- "Johansson (Ingvar) - Identity Puzzles and Supervenient Identities", Johansson, 2006
- "Lockwood (Michael) - Of Persons and Organisms: A Reply to Howsepian", Lockwood, 1997
- "Lowe (E.J.) - On the Identity of Artifacts", Lowe, 1983
- "Morreau (Michael) - It Simply Does Not Add Up: Trouble With Overall Similarity", Morreau, 2010
- "Noonan (Harold) - The Necessity of Origin", Noonan, 1983
- "Noonan (Harold) - Wiggins, Artifact Identity and 'Best Candidate' Theories", Noonan, 1985
- "Noonan (Harold) - Reply to Garrett", Noonan, 1986
- "Over (D.E.) - On a Temporal Slippery Slope Paradox", Over, 198621
- "Rea (Michael) - The Problem of Material Constitution", Rea, 1995
- "Scaltsas (Theodore) - The Ship of Theseus", Scaltsas, 1980
- "Scaltsas (Theodore) - Identity, Origin and Spatiotemporal Continuity", Scaltsas, 1980
- "Simons (Peter) - On Being the Same Ship(s) - or Electron(s): Reply to Hughes", Simons, 1981
- "Smart (Brian) - How to Reidentify the Ship of Theseus", Smart, 1972
- "Smart (Brian) - The Ship of Theseus, the Parthenon and Disassembled Objects", Smart, 1973
- "Smythe (Thomas W.) - Chisholm on Personal Identity", Smythe, 1975
- "Symons (John) - The Individuality of Artifacts and Organisms", Symons, 2010
- This is mostly a place-holder22.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (17/08/2018 21:59:02).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
- I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
- As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
- The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
- And the “Trigger’s Broom” variant of the paradox was mentioned by a financial adviser.
- If only a “non-updating” run has been made, the links are only one-way – ie. from the page of links to the objects that reference this Note by mentioning the appropriate key-word(s). The links are also only indicative, as they haven’t yet been confirmed as relevant.
- Once an updating run has been made, links are both ways, and links from this Notes page (from the “Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note” and “Summary of Note Links to this Page” sections) are to the “point of link” within the page rather than to the page generically. Links from the “links page” remain generic.
- There are two sorts of updating runs – for Notes and other Objects. The reason for this is that Notes are archived, and too many archived versions would be created if this process were repeatedly run.
- Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
- In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
- In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
- My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
- I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
- Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019