Is there a point at which HMS Victory is no longer the same ship whose decks were trod by Nelson at Trafalgar? Or will HMS Victory always be the same historic ship no matter how often she is restored and repaired?
These are not new questions. They were discussed by the Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Plato by c. 500–400 BC in a thought experiment called the Ship of Theseus.
For those of you who are unfamiliar; it’s from a long running UK series that was well known for its lack of violence, sex, racism and generally most things that some people would find disagreeable.
The philosopher Thomas Hobbs (of Calvin and Hobbs) came up the question what if someone was to use the old planks from the Ship of Theseus and built a ship with them? The puts another twist in the paradox.
If someone puts together grandpa’s original axe head and handle?