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Posted: May 12th, 2023

Week 10: Conclusion to the course – Part I: Continuity of Identity

Week 10: Conclusion to the course – Part I: Continuity of Identity

1. In addition to reflecting on what you have learned about aging throughout the course, take a moment to watch the following video and ponder the famous thought experiment: “The Ship of Theseus”:

Your assignment is to consider the following:

Just like the famous Athenian ship of old, we all continue to grow and change in a magnitude of ways over our lifespan – cells replicate and divide, immature thoughts are replaced with mature versions, and even your social skills have improved over time (for some, anyway!). Paradoxically, have you been changing while also remaining the same? Do any of the changes we experience in life result in a “new” us? Reflect on how this classic philosophical debate may be applied to Lifespan development.

“The Ship of Theseus.” The thought experiment raises the question of whether an object that has had all its parts replaced can still be considered the same object. In the case of the ship, if every plank of wood was replaced over time, is it still the same ship?

When it comes to human beings and lifespan development, the question of continuity of identity is also relevant. As we age, we go through numerous physical, cognitive, and social changes. Our cells replicate and divide, our brains develop and mature, and we acquire new skills and knowledge. However, despite all these changes, we still consider ourselves to be the same person.

One way to reconcile this paradox is to view the self as a dynamic process rather than a static entity. In other words, our identity is constantly changing and evolving over time, but it remains coherent and recognizable. We may have different beliefs, values, and preferences than we did in the past, but there is still a sense of continuity and connectedness to our past selves.

Moreover, we are not just passive recipients of change; we also actively shape our own development through our choices, actions, and experiences. Therefore, each new version of ourselves is not entirely “new” but rather a product of our past and present selves.

In conclusion, the Ship of Theseus thought experiment can be applied to lifespan development by highlighting the complex interplay between change and continuity of identity. While we undergo many transformations over the course of our lives, we still maintain a sense of self that endures over time.

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