Thought Experiment: The Ship of Theseus

Thought Experiment: The Ship of Theseus

There is a thought experiment called the Ship of Theseus. It was designed by Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, to help illustrate the concept of identity. Theseus was a legendary king. He won many battles and was beloved by all his citizens in the kingdom he founded, Athens. He is considered to be one of the earliest and most influential heroes in Greek Mythology. Here is the thought experiment:

The people of Athens loved their king, Theseus. After he passed, the great city, which was known for its naval superiority, decided to exhibit Theseus’ ship at a harbor as a museum piece. Lacking any way to preserve the ship’s condition against time and the elements, the wood in the ship began to rot. The question is: if the harbor masters replace the rotting wood for new planks, is the ship still Theseus’, or is it a new ship? More to the point, if every piece of wood, metal, and other materials are replaced on the ship, is it the same ship, or a different one?

Many great thinkers have posed different answers to this experiment. This idea is compelling because it deals with how we conceptualize our own transformations.

This is what I believe.

Theseus made countless repairs and alterations to his ship while he was alive. And regardless of the transformation this ship underwent, it was still “Theseus’ ship”. This experiment could only happen once Theseus had passed, and he could no longer command the vessel. The moment that Theseus died, and the purpose of the ship changed, is the moment that it was no longer the same ship.

Think of who you are at your core as Theseus. And, all the parts that make up your life is your vessel. The transformations that we attempt to make every New Year are the repairs to the vessel. We want to improve ourselves, but we don’t want to lose who we really are. There is friction between our old life and our new goals. Inevitably, the new goals suffer the loss. We don’t change. And the wood continues to rot.

But if you remember your intention, then you can be you in any circumstance or condition and still be you. You could leave behind all the rotting wood and rusting metal.

What are the obstacles that strike against your truest intention? Let them go. Leave yourself unencumbered to transform. And when you are transforming, think of all the things that support your change. And add them. Keep asking yourself how it resonates with your intention. Do that over and over again. Just as Theseus never let himself be slowed with the thought of losing the old and damaged parts of his ship, we should not fear releasing the old parts of ourselves and our lives that hinder our transformation.

Take command of your ship.

The Open Mind Center is designed to support you on your journey. Our products, classes, and services are all designed to help you shed what you want to leave behind and embrace the bounty of blessings that are ahead of you. We know that you are the hero of your own story. We want to make sure your ship is ready for the journey.