“The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.”
“Theseus” – Plutarch (75 ACE)
“It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law.”
Thomas Hobbes, English Philosopher
That great, ponderable questions come up in the business of the design professions is nothing new. Take for example the metaphysical thought experiment posed by the “Ship of Theseus.” After his many journeys, Theseus sailed back to Athens where he eventually lived out his life. The Athenians kept and maintained his ship as a memorial of their returning hero for hundreds of years. Due to the deleterious effects of the passing of time, the ship’s planks had to be replaced one by one in order for the ship to be preserved. Eventually, hundreds of years later, all the planks of Theseus’ ship were replaced with new material. Nothing of the original remained, other than its shape and name. So, was it the same ship?