Warning: If you haven't watched WandaVision in its entirety, proceed with caution as this article contains spoilers.
WandaVision Episode 9 – the series finale – has just been released and fans are speculating more than ever. As much as we love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was not the first that came to mind when we thought of philosophical concepts that date back to ancient times. So what was the ship of Theseus that we show discussed in the final episode of WandaVision?
WandaVision is an often perplexing, very meta show that comments on a wide range of cinematic moments and is, as a whole, much different from our typical idea of a Marvel show. The final episode, appropriately titled "The Series Finale" to reflect the overall meta tone, was no exception.
This is not to say that the episode was without action, however. The fight between the version of Vision that Wanda created – also known as Hex Vision – and the S.W.O.R.D-controlled white Vision can be counted among the episode's most notable moments. How would you expect such a fight to end?
Well, this being Marvel, we didn't expect the conflict to be resolved with philosophy and yet this is basically what happens. Superhero media are often reliant on physical force or magical powers, so this was a refreshing conclusion, appropriate for one of the most peaceful characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This takes us to the nature of the discussion between Hex Vision and white Vision. What eventually decided the peaceful resolution is a concept known as the ship of Theseus. But what exactly is this concept?
As the name indicates, the idea has its roots in Ancient Greece. In fact, it has been around for many centuries and discussed by Plato and Heraclitus, among others. The ship of Theseus falls towards the metaphysical philosophy branch and it's a thought puzzle that asks us to consider whether or not an object that had all its elements replaced remains the same object.
The example that gave the experiment its name refers to the ship of the hero Theseus which the Athenians were able to preserve for an unrealistic amount of time by removing its old, decayed components and replacing them with new ones. But if all the planks were changed, would it be the same ship in the end, or a different one?
Don't worry if you are unsure. Even some of the greatest philosophers didn't manage to agree on that. To make this even harder, Hobbes added to the experiment: what would happen if the original, removed planks were used to make a new ship? Which of the two would be Theseus' ship then, if any?
WandaVision cleverly uses this concept, adding an additional layer of meaning to an already rich show. Hex Vision and white Vision could represent the two different versions of Theseus' ship.
The former, who uses the puzzle to stop his opponent, claims to be the first ship in the above example. If he used to be Vision – the original one, who died in Endgame, he now lacks all the components that came with this identity. Having no portion of his original material, he is technically not Vision, and so his opponent – programmed to kill Vision – is technically not obliged to go through with the killing.
White Vision, on the other hand, was the result of all the original planks, or components of the original Vision, put together to create something similar but not the same, at least not yet. This means that both of them are Vision, in a sense, but none of them is the original Vision we knew.
Of course, having all of Vision's memories, and having been freed from the control of S.W.O.R.D., white Vision could become something closer to the original ship – at least Hex Vision seems to believe so. So is the reconstructed ship, the one made from scratch from the original planks, the real ship of Theseus? This is a philosophical question we can't answer with absolute certainty, but in the case of Vision, it might be so.