Ship of Theseus


By: Emma Wu

The Ship of Theseus is one of the most famous paradoxes in history. The background is that when the war hero Theseus returned from fighting, the ship he sailed on became a national treasure for the history it represented. As time went on, the wood planks of the ship began to rot. In order to preserve the ship, the people began replacing the rotting planks with new, exact replicas of the planks. Eventually, all the planks of the ship were replaced with replicas. However, this raises the question, if the entire ship was replaced with new parts, then is it still the same ship?

Many people would say that the ship that was completely replaced with new parts would no longer be the same ship. The reasoning was that with all new parts, there is no longer any original piece of the ship, it would only be a new exact replica of the ship. 

However, if we translate this paradox in regard to people, the paradox becomes more complicated. If organ replacement with exact, functioning, replicas were possible, then this paradox becomes relevant. If a person were to replace body part after body part, eventually the brain with exact replicas, are they still the same person? If the brain were replaced with the exact same replica of the brain, arguably where the personality of the person is, then are they still the same person? Theoretically, the personality, the way the person thinks, and the way they act, is all still the same, the brain is just a newer, yet still exact, replica. Therefore, the question is whether that person is still the same person. Hence, the question becomes what is the true essence of a person or an object? Is it the brain, or is it their personality, or is it something else? Therefore, the true essence of a person is the question in this paradox. What do you think?


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