Saturday, April 30, 2005

Post on Plagiarism

I posted this comment on an interesting discussion on plagiarism in the Becker-Posner blog:

Two points:

First, I was surprised Mr. Becker did not mention counterfeiting in scholarship. For example, one can state what is effectively his or her opinion, and then call it "the Durkheimian position". This is something I admit I have done on occasion to strengthen my argument, the academic equivalent of a fake "Gucci" insignia. Though it may have some semblance to the original product, but like a counterfeit the idea is to be impressive at first glance, especially when you don't expect too much scrutiny.

My other point is what happens when plagiarism happens through osmosis? What I mean is that it is hard to sometimes remember where certain ideas come from, and one might confuse what they think is their own original thought to what they heard on NPR on the drive to work. The Rolling Stones a couple of years ago got into trouble when a single of theirs actually sounded a lot like a song by K.D. Lang. Keith Richards stated that he owns no records by her, but he acknowledged that he might have heard it over the radio or somewhere else, and that the tune might've stuck. He actually blamed it on old age, and said something along the lines "We try so hard not to sound like our older albums, that we really don't pay attention to when we start sounding like someone else". This one is harder to pin down, when is the plagiarism intentional, and when is it a mistake? On the other hand, didn't Newton and Leibniz both develop calculus independently and at roughly the same time?


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