Stepping in the Same River Twice:
The Metaphysics of Plato and the Presocratics
He who cannot draw on three thousand years
is living hand to mouth
The SS Sardine is a fine, sea-going vessel. Its owner however, is quite bent on wanting an entirely new boat. Instead of investing the money into buying a whole boat, she figures that she will simply transform the Sardine into a new boat herself. For a period of twelve months, the owner replaces every single plank used in the Sardine's construction with fresh lumber from Home Depot. At what point can it be said that the Sardine no longer exists? Clearly, when the first board is replaced the boat changes, but can it be said to be a completely different boat? If, when twelve months is up and every single original plank of the Sardine has been replaced, is it a new boat then? Using an example closer to home: as our own cells die and are replaced, are we a new person when none of our original cells exist?
This is a perfect example of one of the classic problems from the history of metaphysics: the problem of change.
This problem was as vexing to the ancient Greeks as it is to the modern mind. Should we assume that what we see and feel what is actually the way we think it to be? For philosophers concerned with metaphysics (literally translated as beyond-physics), the answer is most frequently no. For the majority of people unfamiliar with the history of philosophy, Plato serves as the first metaphysician, developing an elaborate system of forms and particulars. In actuality, the world of metaphysics was already quite diverse and developed when Plato came onto the scene. The first of the Greeks to be concerned with...