Plagiarism shmagiarism

28 09 2010

Dictionaries define plagiarism as the act of using another person’s idea or a part of their work and passing it off as your own.

I am not a big fan of plagiarism but I do often wonder if there is anything such as an original idea. I shall not venture to determine plagiriasm concerning established facts or figures. Those are more, if not entirely, blatant. I’m referring to ‘ideas’ because to me that’s a bit foggy.

Can anyone apart from first gen humans, hermits and people who grew up on isolated islands – with zero exposure to other thinking and living objects – claim to have produced a one hundred per cent original notion?

I know I am being pedantic but bear with me. Everything we do or say or think is basically a partial sum of our experiences. Everything we write is a subconscious reflection of everything we’ve read or seen and people we know or have met.

So how can we possibly claim those ideas as our own? They belong to someone else, who, in all likelihood, have also plagiarised in a similar manner from someone before them.

If someone rehashed and republished this post would I flip a bitch and want to sue their pants off? Most likely but that’s only because I imagine suing is educational and fun. But am I logically entitled to claim this post as my original idea? I’m not sure. It’s quite likely that I may have plagiarised the idea of plagiarism.

I reproduced a part of it in my own words. The other bits probably came from some of my other experiences. Just because no one can detect and identify all those sources – making it impossible to accuse me of plagiarism – can I claim this to be a one hundred per cent original work of mine?

A few days ago, I read a post by Scott Reynolds Nelson about how he used his grandma’s experience to draw a parallel between the current economic depression and the ones during the 1930s and the 1870s – and how those parallels were conveniently plagiarised and run as first page report by a Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. The newspaper editor clarified, Nelson’s theory was not a “unique achievement”.  I could get behind that.

But the question still stands – is there a thing as a unique achievement? A hundred per cent original idea?

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4 responses

11 10 2010
Josh

I’m positive one of the 30,345 sources you plagarised is Carl Jung and his work on the “collective unconscious”.

27 11 2010
Julian Buttersweets

I disagree. The culmination of your experiences is something only you will ever know. Only. You. Ever. If we were to lift inspiration from just one place, that could perhaps be plagiarism, but the sum of my life experiences thus far will ALWAYS equal something completely different from anyone else’s. I think that’s pretty fucking original.

18 07 2011
Divisha

Thought provoking. I would look at it this way – who are we? As humans with a “conscious” mind (or a 12 per cent functional brain), we are nothing but an assembly of a multitude of experiences – conscious or subconscious. Almost all the time, We draw upon these various experiences and impressions to take decisions, react to life situations or come up with ideas we think are our own. A number of factors come into play here: social conditioning, culture and even alignment of a person’s energies. Such is the essential nature of life – we are limited to our five senses and rarely make an attempt to go beyond. So whilst the concept of a “100 pc original idea” is debatable, a person’s experience of that idea is cent percent unique to him. Which is why I, for example, would keep going back to Indian classical music – those seven notes aren’t any musician’s original idea but the permutations and combinations that arise out it are the uniquest. (There, that’s an original word ;))

21 07 2011
NotSoSecretAdmirer

It’s effectively intertextuality – there are indeed no new ideas.

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