Nothing New Left to Say: Plagiarism, Originality, and the Discipline of Philosophy

Florida Philosophical Review 12 (1):1-16 (2012)

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Brook Sadler
University of South Florida
Abstract
I argue that to see certain textual practices as instances of plagiarism depends upon prior assumptions about the nature of authorship and originality. I introduce key ideas from Kant's essay "On the Unauthorized Publication of Books" as a clue to the modern notion of authorship and from Foucault's "What Is an Author?" which offers a postmodern deconstruction of the author. I explain how the current proliferation of student plagiarism can be viewed as a radical departure from both of these views, pointing toward a future in which the creation of text is un-authored, anonymous, collective but non-collaborative, and dynamic. I suggest that faculty attitudes about plagiarism represent, in part, a failure to understand the changing economic, technological, and textual practices that are guiding students and administrators. Nonetheless, I maintain that plagiarism is unethical, even as I call for philosophers to rethink how our discipline might respond to these changing practices.
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