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"Plagiarism is a learned sin, [but] it is not a philosophical issue."

Stephen Downes comments on the New York Time's post: Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal

He writes succinctly:

    I know I'm not supposed to like Stanley Fish, but I can't help myself. Though he and I may come from very different perspectives, he routinely turns to arguments so simple and yet elegant it's hard not to be appreciative. Today's column in the New York Times is a case in point. "Plagiarism is an idea that makes sense only in the precincts of certain specialized practices and is not a normative philosophical notion," he argues, neatly cutting off all debate about whether ideas can be original, whether people can own words, whether it is moral to cite these words, whether computers make the whole issue moot. That's all irrelevant. "If it is wrong to plagiarize in some context of practice, it is not because the idea of originality has been affirmed by deep philosophical reasoning, but because the ensemble of activities that take place in the practice would be unintelligible if the possibility of being original were not presupposed." Lovely.

I don't like the comparison with sports rules that Stanley Fish does. What a sport has to do with academics. Worst the mention of politicians. Once I remember we were using math logic to unscramble politicians message, and what we found was incoherence. Since then, I don't pay attention to politicians at all.

But what I do agree with the author in the NYT is the 'persuasive rationale' on students. Ultimately, that is precisely what they say (or think) Who cares? As far as they get grades, that is enough for them. We need to change that perception in at least a 50 % of our student body. That is the challenge.

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