, Volume 81, Issue 5, pp 973–992 | Cite as

A Situationalist Solution to the Ship of Theseus Puzzle

  • Martin PickupEmail author
Original Article


This paper outlines a novel solution to the Ship of Theseus puzzle. The solution relies on situations, a philosophical tool used in natural language semantics among other places. The core idea is that what is true is always relative to the situation under consideration. I begin by outlining the problem before briefly introducing situations. I then present the solution: in smaller situations (containing only one of the candidate ships for identity with Theseus’s ship) the candidate is identical to Theseus’s ship. But in larger situations containing both candidates these identities are neither true nor false. Finally, I discuss some worries for the view that arise from the nature of identity, and suggest responses. It is concluded that the solution, and the theory that underpins it, are worth further investigation.


Natural Language Semantic Situation Theory Situation Semantic True Simpliciter Transworld Identity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to a number of individuals for feedback on this paper: Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra, Nick Jones, Josh Parsons, JD Lafrance, Al Wilson, Denis Robinson, Stephen Williams and two very helpful anonymous referees for this journal. The publication of this article has been supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, via my participation in The Metaphysics of Entanglement project based in the Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New CollegeUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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