Tuesday, 12 May 2015

lifecycle replacement or persistence of memory

The whole time I was enjoying Doug Dorst’s frame novel S, I did not realise that the subtitle, The Ship of Theseus, was itself a reference to a rather famous philosophical model.

Paradoxically, the ship of the legendary founder of Athens was maintained in a seaworthy state for generations after his death, according to a pledge to honour his memory, but with time and tide, rotten planks had to be replaced at regular intervals. Eventually, none of the original material would have remained, begging the question, posed by many quizzical minds, is the Ship of Theseus still the same ship if 99%, 90%, 50%, 5% or none of the parts were original and all had been replaced. Some argue yes and some no. Now understanding this allusion, the connection becomes quite apparent to the story. Though debatably, one cannot step into the same stream twice, Heraclitus believed that persistence, through the element, medium of time, projects identity outward, even if all the component parts—our bodies included, are continuously eroding and being replaced. What do you think? Is that rescued and refurbished jalopy the same classic car? Is it still Lenin who’s visited in his mausoleum, or now, as he lies in state, even more reliably and fixedly the man?