What is the ‘ship of Theseus’ thought experiment?

What is the ‘ship of Theseus’ thought experiment?

The mythical ship of Theseus raises several philosophical questions. Here, we see a 1920s illustration of an ancient Greek Bireme that has two decks of oars. (Image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Once upon a time — at least according to the ancient Greek writer Plutarch — the hero Theseus sailed from Athens, Greece, to the island of Crete, where he slayed the half-man, half-bull Minotaur before sailing back to rule Athens. 

The wooden ship that Theseus sailed on, Plutarch imagined, must have become a national treasure, and he posed a thought experiment that has fascinated philosophers ever since: If you repaired Theseus’ ship plank by plank so that no original planks remained, is it still the same ship? 

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