Theseus’ Paradox: Scattered Nations, and Collective Identity

German immigrants boarding a ship for America

German immigrants boarding a ship for America

Theseus’ Paradox is a thought experiment that asks whether an object may have all of its original pieces replaced and yet remain the same as the original object.  How much of an object’s pieces may be replaced before it is no longer the same object, or does it yet remain the same as the original object?

Plutarch introduced one version of this paradox, saying,

“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, in so much 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.”

The diaspora of Western European peoples poses us with a similar question: How many members of Western Civilization may be replaced before it is no longer the same Western Civilization of legend that we were raised on?

Returning briefly to Theseus’ Paradox, what if the pieces that were replaced during renovation were instead moved to a warehouse and stored until being reassembled at a later time?  Would it, or could it be the same ship if those pieces were reassembled, and what would that mean for the ship that remained in the harbor?  Would Theseus’ ship exist simultaneously in two places at the same time, or would we have two completely different ships?  Depending on who you ask, and since this is my opinion, I would say that Theseus’ ship can only ever exist in one place, in the warehouse.  The pieces of Theseus’ ship will always belong to Theseus’ ship regardless what stage of construction or deconstruction that it is in.

The diaspora of Western European people should be understood in the same manner.  The Western Europeans who came to colonize and settle North America all originated from that fabled Old World.  Most were Anglo-Saxons, and eventually the Irish, Scottish, Italian, and others were admitted to the new frontier.  The problems that affect us today, such as a confused cultural identity, cannot be fixed by returning to the Fatherland.

At what point that Americans ceased to be Western European in quality is not measurable.  I don’t care if it happened the moment that they boarded the boat, the second that they stepped on American soil, or even some time later down the road.  They, and us by extension, are not Western Europeans anymore.  Similarly, we cannot once again become Western Europeans.

The same argument applies to members of the Black diaspora.

At least two African-Americans have been killed fighting for Syrian forces, and all news reports that I’ve seen described the men as American.  It did not describe them as Syrian, or anything else.  One of the deceased was known to have been involved with a group of radical Somali immigrants living in Minnesota.  The man’s identity was not affected by his consorting with Somali immigrants, and least of all by his desire to travel to Syria.

I’ll give you another example– The Jewish people.  It’s actually a better example.  The Jewish people are what Francis Parker Yockey refers to as the Culture-Nation-State-Church-People-Race.  The Jewish tribe is scattered the world over and they have incorporated scores of different tribes into their own tribe with more-or-less success, rather I should say into their own religion.  Despite the fact that they were gifted a homeland only as recently as 1948 there is a striking quality about their unity of identity as a unique people.  These are a people that Yockey described as carrying their culture within themselves and having made their cultural and national identity inextricable from the other.

This great stock of formerly Western European peoples living in America cannot identify as members of the Old World.  It doesn’t matter if we pack up a suitcase and jump on an airplane tomorrow morning for Whitemanistan– Our ship, our identity, has been built.  Our ship was built with the stock of Western Europeans, and over time the old planks were replaced with newer and stronger ones.  We can never again be members of the Old World.

Does our ship still bare its original resemblance even though all of its component parts have been replaced?  Yes.  It bares the same external appearance and is capable of sailing the same waters.  The difference is only clear when you check the vessel’s name, and the standard it sails under.  Our ship is not the same as it once was, and Theseus’ ship is gone forever– or is it?

We New World occupants were first built with the planks of Western Europeans.  Not all of those planks have gone out from us yet because most of us still identify as Western European in some manner.  In the same sense that Theseus’ ship exists whether half of it is in the harbor, and the other half in the warehouse, the spatial separation between its parts does not change the idea that Theseus’ ship still exists unbroken.  When half of Western European peoples now lives on one side of the Atlantic ocean, and half of them on the other does not change the fact that our shared spiritual and cultural identity persists in spite of a split geographic identity.  Theseus’ ship does not sail anymore, and the fabled Old World will never ride again.  Its parts are scattered, never to be reunited.  And yet, the Old World lives on.  We carry the pieces of the Old World within ourselves as our people sail under a new name and standard.


Tre Tyler Farmer

This was very well written. I would argue that most white Americans could move back to Western Europe if they had the means and opportunity, and blend in very well with the Old World. But, I agree with you that is better to press on here, keeping the traditions of our peoples alive in our hearts.


I believe we can still go back to Europe and blend in. We can’t be 100% “Old World,” but our children will be, just as my old Irish grandmother, who still has her brogue, was always obviously Irish but her grandchildren and her younger children were “American.” As liberal as it is though, my heart is with Boston and my home state of Massachusetts and I would only go to Europe if I felt it was definitely the best decision. The problem is, how do we deal with the fact that there’s a lot of blacks and Hispanics around us? We can’t ever have a true unified national state or states unless we can separate peoples or possibly accept a great deal of non-whites as our own. Even if you could separate the races, you have to consider interracial marriages, and traditionalist men like John Derbyshire for example who has an Asian wife. We can never be perfectly white I think, and I think we have to draw the line somewhere as to who is in and who is out, while giving some wiggle room for our special situation as Americans.

Thomas Buhls

In-groups and out-groups will always exist, and I don’t like using civic membership to determine tribal membership. The latter can be used at times to determine the former, but never the other way around.

When I sometimes get nostalgic and wish that I could be English, or Danish, or French like my grandparents were I have to make sure that it is a desire to have tighter familial or tribal membership than civic membership. I can stay right where I am and express kinship to distant tribal relations, but the only way I could ever be part of their civic membership is by expatriating and taking citizenship to a different country. Expatriation is no guarantee that I would be “permitted” to enter their identity, and for that reason alone I’m content to stay right where I am and deal with the problems I already know.

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