The replacements on tour

There is no shortage of musical groups which contain no original members, perhaps an inevitability if a group lasts long enough. For instance: the Dixie Hummingbirds have been a working singing group since 1928; founder James B. Davis died in 2007 at ninety-one. Then again, the Britpop group Sugababes, which dates only to 1998, has no original members remaining, though apparently they’ve always been a fractious bunch.

Regarding the latter, Andrew King muses:

Which mythical hero’s conveyance links the Sugababes with a river and George Washington’s Axe?

The river in question is the one mentioned by Heraclitus, the one you can never step into twice because it’s never exactly the same river. The vessel, of course, is the Ship of Theseus, as described by Plutarch:

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned [from Crete] 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.

Where this gets convoluted is in a later analysis by Thomas Hobbes, who wondered: if you gathered up all the original, discarded planks, and built a ship from them, can it legitimately be called the Ship of Theseus?

Until Starfleet Command can reassure me on these matters, I’m not setting foot in a transporter.

(See also this contemplation of Washington’s axe.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    18 November 2009 · 12:09 pm

    I was misremembering that as the Delian Ships. But I was thinking about them just yesterday, when the contractors got done measuring my house for new windows: “Bit by bit I’m going to replace this place, and eventually there will no longer be anything built in 1947 other than perhaps the foundation.”

  2. CGHill »

    18 November 2009 · 12:25 pm

    I know the feeling, though really very little of my house has changed since 1948: the garage was added on three years later, the roof is relatively recent, and you can be sure the breakfast bar and the track lighting above it did not exist back then, but by and large, it is what it was. For now.

  3. fillyjonk »

    18 November 2009 · 1:21 pm

    Part of the reason I bought my house was that, unlike “modern” houses fitting a small footprint, they didn’t try to carve out a dozen tiny rooms (including four cell-like bedrooms) from the space. I prefer fewer but larger rooms: less claustrophobic.

    I will admit if I could wave a magic wand and change something without major life disruption, it would be to “finish” the attic, put a second bathroom up there, and turn it into my sleeping/hideout area. But that would probably cost more to do than I paid for the place, not to mention having my life in major turmoil for the months it would take to have it done.

  4. Gabrielle Dolly »

    19 November 2009 · 8:01 am

    The old saying about Grandmother’s broom in 3… 2…


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