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The ship of Theseus is a puzzle that perplexed philosophers throughout centuries. This puzzle involves a ship that stays in a harbor but has parts gradually replaced over the years until all of the original parts are gone. Is it still the same ship that stood there originally? The puzzle is complicated by the later addition of a replica ship being built out of the original parts in the warehouse. Which one is the real ship? Perhaps they are both the original, or neither? In this paper, I will outline the possible solutions and will present my perspective on this thought experiment.
A great number of solutions have been proposed over the years. The simplest solution is based on the notion that ordinary objects survive gradual change. For example, a shoe does not become a different shoe when a person replaces its shoelaces. It just slightly changes. An opposite solution states that the replica ship is, in fact, the original. This solution is based on the assumption that an object goes where its parts go. For instance, when a movie set is disassembled and moved, it is still the same movie set. The third solution considers neither ships to be the original based on the idea that by removing any parts from an object, it ceases to be that object.
Moreover, some solutions find that both ships are original by denying the transitivity of identity. Another solution that states that both ships are still the ship of Theseus considers that objects have a temporal aspect that suggests that the original object is only a part of the larger temporal object that makes all instances of the ship, including the one in the harbor and the one in the warehouse to be parts of the ship.
The various solutions proposed have either contradictions with other ideas or require a serious change in perspective on how people perceive objects. I believe that instead of looking to reshape the definitions of objects, it would be more practical to examine how people perceive objects in real life. The original puzzle was created centuries before the theory of atoms was outlined. In those times, objects consisted of easily definable and measurable parts.
However, now we know that nothing is truly solid and that everything consists of objects so small that they are hard to visualize properly. Without knowing it, people have been involved in the ship of Theseus puzzle all along. Our bodies gradually replace dead cells with new ones over time, with complete replacements happening relatively often.
Despite that, people still consider each other the same people they were before all the cells were replaced. This is due to the way people perceive objects. Outside of human perception, objects are nothing but a collection of atoms, without a name or meaning. However, human perception often requires an object to be identified, categorized, and assigned meaning. I am stating that people assign meaning to objects rather than the objects themselves.
Therefore, the ship in the harbor is the real ship of Theseus. The whole purpose of the parts being replaced on it lies in the desire of people to preserve it as a symbol. The ship in the warehouse is not the original ship despite having original parts because it is intentionally assembled as a replica, and the wide populace would not consider it the original because they already put their beliefs in the harbor ship. I believe my solution to be the best because it reflects the way people perceive objects in real life and the nature of perception itself.
The ship of Theseus is a difficult puzzle. Perhaps a perfect solution would never be found. However, I believe that the true solution lies in examining how people perceive the world.