WandaVision: What is the Ship of Theseus? Everything You Need to Know

The introduction of White Vision in episode 8 had aroused many questions surrounding the true identity of Vision and whether the two versions of Vision can exist together. And now, the series finale of WandaVision has thrown a curveball that doesn’t just put the question to rest but also does so satisfactorily by bringing in the philosophical thought experiment of the Ship of Theseus. What is it and how does it exactly explain Vision’s true identity? Read on to get familiar.

Warning: Major WandaVision finale (episode 9) Spoilers ahead.

The Ship of Theseus – Metaphysics of Identity

The ‘Ship of Theseus’ is an old Greek thought experiment in the metaphysics of identity. It is as old as Western Philosophy, discussed by the likes of Plato and Heraclitus, and is said to have been first reported by the Greek historian Plutarch.

The famous Greek hero Theseus had sailed in great battles in his ship which, for posterity’s sake, was kept in the harbor as a museum piece. Over time, due to the rot, the planks of the ship were replaced one by one so that over time, none of the original planks remained. The question in this thought experiment is this: Is the Ship of Theseus with the replaced planks the same as the original, or is it different?

As is the case with such experiments, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. Whatever answer one gives (and the explanations for the same) tells us something about how the respondent thinks – in this case, whether one thinks of identity as fixed or changeable.

Over the years, the best minds have pondered over the thought experiment, adding their own puzzles and alterations to it, the famous philosopher Thomas Hobbes being one of them. One of those added puzzles goes like this: If the original rot-infested planks of the ship are gathered and restored and a new ship is created, is that the same ship as the original one?

We know, it’s quite the head-scratcher, even for philosophy majors. But how does it all relate to our favorite Synthezoid(s) in WandaVision?

How does it relate to Vision?

Things had gotten quite complicated after the big post-credit scene revelation of White Vision. But the Ship of Theseus conversation between the two Visions showed without a doubt that both Visions think the same way – “neither is the true ship, both are the true ship”. Since we’re talking about a thought experiment that reveals how a person thinks, and since the Visions are in agreement with the neither/both answer, we see that the answer applies to them as well.

White Vision is without the Mind Stone while Red Vision has none of the same material with which he was originally built, making them both the ‘new’ versions of Vision. But White Vision is without any of his original memories either, that is until Red Vision tells him that the memories are not lost, but are merely being kept from him.

“The Rot is the Memories”

Red Vision suggests that perhaps the ‘rot’ in the planks of the Ship of Theseus for them is the memories that they have. For SWORD agents, especially Tyler Hayward, Vision’s memories are inimical to their plans to use him as a weapon for their own purposes. They don’t want Vision to have a conscience that only real-world experiences, the heart that gives him his humanity. They need an ice-cold killer that gets the job done as per his directives without pondering over the morality of the actions.

But Vision (Red or White) isn’t an unthinking android. And once his memories are restored and he awakens to who he really is, he doesn’t waste any time and bursts through the roof to go wherever it is that he feels most urgent.