The Ship Of Theseus Asks Is An Object With All Its Parts Replaced Still The Same Object?

Brilliance | Dec. 16, 2017

Even though it's many centuries old, the Ship of Theseus thought experiment is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. The conundrum deals with the very essence of being.

The Thought Experiment

Theseus was an ancient Greek king who was known as a great warrior and hero. To honor him, the people of Athens chose to keep his ship preserved through the years, and over time they replaced each rotting plank with new timber until none of the original ship remained. This led philosophers to ask the question: is a ship with all new parts still the same ship? 

An Ancient Thought For Future Times

Though the question arose many centuries ago, it still baffles us today, especially when it comes to the future potential of teleportation. As far as we can imagine, a teleportation device would have to scan and break apart your atoms, then send that information to the destination, where you would be reassembled anew. So is that teleported person still you? Or did you die in the first location, and leave only a copy of you—with all the same memories, elbow scars, and lunch-stained clothes—in the second? This isn't a question that's easily answered, and we probably won't come to a definitive conclusion, especially not before teleportation becomes a reality.

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