The Ship of Theseus Puzzle

In Tania Lombrozo, Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy Volume 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 158-174 (2020)
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Does the Ship of Theseus present a genuine puzzle about persistence due to conflicting intuitions based on “continuity of form” and “continuity of matter” pulling in opposite directions? Philosophers are divided. Some claim that it presents a genuine puzzle but disagree over whether there is a solution. Others claim that there is no puzzle at all since the case has an obvious solution. To assess these proposals, we conducted a cross-cultural study involving nearly 3,000 people across twenty-two countries, speaking eighteen different languages. Our results speak against the proposal that there is no puzzle at all and against the proposal that there is a puzzle but one that has no solution. Our results suggest that there are two criteria—“continuity of form” and “continuity of matter”— that constitute our concept of persistence and these two criteria receive different weightings in settling matters concerning persistence.

Author Profiles

David Rose
Stanford University
Edouard Machery
University of Pittsburgh
Stephen Stich
Rutgers - New Brunswick
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