A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Kripke and the Ship of Theseus – a question

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 8, 2007

I wonder if someone can help me with the following question…

As I understand it, what is required for the historical-causal account of names, is that at some time there to be a causal relation between the thing being named (some particular X) and the baptizer B. That is a requirement for there to be possibility for B to name X, to give it name, e.g. ‘X’. From that moment we can speak about ‘X’ referring to X and that through causal chain the usage of the name can get to other users of the name, each of which will mean X by ‘X’.

But, let’s say that X is the ship of Theseus. (That is the sheep on which the old planks were took away as they decayed, and new planks put in their place, so that in the end all planks were changed).

I guess that the causal relation can be only between physical things, so that there was a causal relation between the original planks and let’s say the baptizer who baptized it. But if ‘X’ is to stand for X only if the baptizer was in causal relation with X, it can’t be that ‘X’ can stand for the ship as it is after changing all the planks, as none of those parts was in a causal relation with the baptizer.

How do defenders of historical-causal account deal with this?

Connected posts:Unity of Consciousness, Ontology and Reference

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One Response to “Kripke and the Ship of Theseus – a question”

  1. onemorebrown said

    There are a couple of things that could be said about this. Kripke himself has sometimes said that as long as the change is slow enough it won’t really matter and Devitt has picked up on this and eloborates it. His idea is that the name ‘ship of Theseus’ would be ambiguous as between the many stages of the ship. It will come to designate both the old ship and the new ship, and in between it will partially designate both…

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