A Philosophical Conundrum

It’s Called “The Ship of Theseus”

It’s Called “The Ship of Theseus”

I got this puzzle from The Futility Closet, which I have decided to add to my links:

Suppose we have a complete wooden ship, and one day we replace one of its wooden planks with an aluminum one. Most people would agree that the ship survives this operation; that is to say, its identity remains unchanged. But suppose that we then replace a second plank, and then a third, until our wooden ship is made entirely of aluminum. Is this the same ship that we started with? If not, when did it change?

Thomas Hobbes adds a wrinkle: Suppose that, as we did all this refurbishing, someone had gathered up all the discarded wooden planks and used them to assemble a second ship. What are we to make of this? “This, without doubt, had also been the same numerical ship with that which was at the beginning; and so there would have been two ships numerically the same, which is absurd.”

And philosopher Roderick Chisholm adds another: “Let us suppose that the captain of the original ship had solemnly taken the vow that, if his ship were ever to go down, he would go down with it. What, now, if the two ships collide at sea and he sees them start to sink together? Where does his duty lie — with the aluminum ship or with the reassembled wooden ship?”


Tributes: Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

The Young Poetess Half a Lifetime Ago

The Young Poetess Half a Lifetime Ago

Losing a poet is a serious thing. They tend not to get replaced often enough with others who are as good. Or maybe we have gotten too used to their voices to hear newer voices emerging from the mass.

I was saddened to hear of Maya Angelou’s death this morning. She had been in poor health and slipped away from us quietly. Fortunately, her voice remains behind to remind us of what we are missing. Such as these brief lines entitled “Awaking in New York”:

Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.

I love that image of children sleeping while exchanging dreams with seraphim.

To one interviewer who asked in 1984 about how she wrote her poems, Miss Angelou had a quick retort:

I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.

Maybe that’s what I should do when I write these blogs!