Delphi at the Docks
Delphi looked over to the ship. It didn’t look like anything special, and seemed to have all the usual bits that ships have. She had never been taught to read, but she knew enough letters to guess that the wooden nameplate on the side said ‘Ship of Theseus’.
There didn’t seem much to argue about. Her dad must have got it wrong, and this was the real one. Names were real, weren’t they? If you called it something, then that’s what it was.
She considered pointing this out to her dad but suspected he wouldn’t appreciate it. His last instruction to her had been to ‘wait here’ and ‘not to argue with anybody’, but Delphi had done that and was a bit bored now, and besides, maybe someone had seen a similar ship to the Ship of Theseus or something. Her father had specifically told her that there were dangerous people at the docks, and it was no place for children to wander about, so of course, she also wanted to go and see what all the fuss was about.
Delphi is visiting the docks at Piraeus with her father and an old sea captain had told her about the mystery of ‘The Ship of Theseus’ – a ship that somehow has become two ships. She might even be able to get a few coins for doing a few jobs like shifting a heap of grain - but she soon discovers that even a task like that might be much more complicated than she imagined. Delphi takes on two ancient logical problems in this intriguing and argumentative nautical adventure!
What exactly is a heap?
Can you explain the Ship of Theseus?
Are names real?
summarising an idea
identifying important ideas from the story
asking questions to extend an enquiry
This lesson gives the children two famous logical problems to tackle, with the focus of the lesson being on understanding the problems and recognising they are difficult to answer. The first is the Sorites paradox – when does a heap of grain become or stop being a heap when it is moved? The second is the tale of the Ship of Theseus, where a ship is slowly replaced piece by piece, and the old pieces are used to recreate the ship. Both stories are explored with practical activities to help children understand these problems. The aim of the lesson is to summarise and identify what is interesting about these problems, and ask questions to explore them, rather than trying to solve them.
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