Search This Blog

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Paradox of Theseus's Maserati

Many people are familiar with the Paradox of Theseus's Ship; fewer are familiar with the Paradox of Theseus's Maserati. 

It seems that Aegeus had command of a time-traveling genie. Wanting to show his favor to Theseus, his newly discovered son, for his heroic acts as he had made his way to Athens, Aegeus commanded the genie to produce an exemplary gift, sure to quicken the heart of any young man, and so the genie nipped a Maserati straight from the factory. 

 Theseus, being a high-spirited youth, was instantly taken with the Maserati. He used to sit in it for *hours*, shifting the gears and twirling the wheel and making vroom-vroom noises. But, alas, as the genie had not thought to bring any gasoline/pertol back, that is all he could do with it. In time, the bloom of his enthusiasm for the Maserati had faded. 

Seeing Theseus moping about Athens, and being a doting, if belated, father, Aegeus inquired into the cause of Theseus's listlessness. Upon learning that shifting the gears and twirling the wheel and making vroom-vroom noises, even in a Maserati, gets old after a while, Aegeus commanded the genie to *do something* to reawaken Theseus's delight in the Maserati. 

 Not being the most quick-witted of spirits, the time-traveling genie returned to the scene of the crime, that is, to the Maserati factory. For days, he secretly observed the manufacture of Maseratii. And, while he never caught on to the requirement for gasoline/petrol in the tank, he *did* come to understand how a Maserati is put together, and all of the parts required. So, the genie nipped one of every single part which goes into the making of a Maserati, and took them back to Heroic Age Athens. 

As the genie's luck would have it, Theseus had a bit of a mechanical bent ... which would shortly serve him well in Crete. So, after the genie had explained how a Maserati might be assembled -- or re-assembled -- of the pile of parts, and still not understanding the necessity of gasoline/petrol, to say nothing of engine oil, Theseus's enthusiasm for the Maserati was rekindled, and he decided to swap-out every part in turn until he discovered just which part was the defective one preventing him from *driving* the Maserati. 

So, Theseus and the genie got to work (for, after all, the genie hadn't brought back the necessary tools) replacing parts on the Maserati Aegeus had given him. To keep from getting confused as to just which parts had been replaced, as each part was removed from the Maserati, rather that just dumping them in a jumble in some forgotten storeroom of the palace, the genie assembled each to all the other parts which had previously been removed from the original Maserati. 

At last, a day came when Theseus (and the genie) had replaced every single part of the Maserati Aegeus had given to Theseus -- and *still* it wouldn't start. Theseus was both frustrated and despondent. In his despair, he cried out to the Genie, “This is the Maserati which my father, the King, hast given me. Wherefore shall I tell him it that pleases me not?” But, pointing to the *other* Maserati which he had re-assembled, the genie replied, “Lo! This *also* is the Maserati which thy father, the King, hast given thee! Is this not a most wondrous gift which thy father, the King, hast given thee, in that *both* these Maseratii are one and the same Maserati?” 

Fortunately for Theseus’s sanity, the time had come once again for Athens to send to King Minos of Crete the tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. And, well, everyone knows that story.


K T Cat said...

Good Lord, I love you, man.


Ilíon said...

Aw, shucks!

Ilíon said...

Do you see some of the points or implications of this little paradox?

K T Cat said...

Off topic: Thanks for all you comments recently. I just got back from Dixie and published them as soon as I saw them. As for your other question, let me refresh myself on the content of this post.

K T Cat said...

I loved the story, but I didn't get the implications. It's the old story of George Washington's ax. This is the ax that he used to chop down the cherry tree. We've only had to replace the head 3 times and the handle 7!

Ilíon said...

Yes, it's "George Washington's Axe", also "The Axe with which Great-Granddad Cleared The Farm"; all the way back to "The Paradox of Theseus's Ship".

Ilíon said...

I recently got back from Indiana. This trip, I was helping my nephew replace his roof.

Ilíon said...

The implication for materialism/physicalism is: "No, I am not my body, my body is not me, and materialism/physicalism is absurd, thus false".


IF materialism/physicalism is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN you are your body and your body is you: you are entirely physical/material; there is no immaterial 'self' which is "the real you".

NOW, as it happens, your body is *constantly* replacing its parts: it’s not just that individual cells die and their places are taken by new cells, but that all the way down to the atomic level, your body is constantly replacing its parts. The piece-by-piece rebuilding of Theseus’s Maserati is child’s play compared to what your body is constantly doing.

BUT: IF materialism/physicalism is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN the absurd *principle* by which two “identical” Maseratii are in fact the *same* (i.e. “mathematically identical”) Maserati also applies, in principle or theory, to your body. That is, IF “you are your body and your body is you”, THEN in principle one could gather/accumulate all the atoms and molecules one’s body has shed/is shedding, and by carefully selecting specific ones, reconstruct “you body” just as the genie did with the Maserati … and that reconstructed body would *also* be “you”.