A Case of Extensive Plagiarism (guest post) (updated)


The following guest post* provides evidence that Mahmoud Khatami, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran who is well-known and widely-celebrated in Iran, plagiarized parts of his dissertation, which he wrote for his 1996 Ph.D. degree from Durham University. It also provides evidence that a book about Khatami’s work was plagiarized (and notes that the identity of the author could not be confirmed). That latter book was published by Dr. Muller House, a “print-on-demand” publishing company, as were many of Khatami’s own books. The post was authored by a group of philosophers who wish to remain anonymous.

UPDATE 1 (11/8/14): It appears that there are efforts afoot to minimize Khatami’s web presence. His official website has disappeared, as has the blog dedicated to him. Further, his Wikipedia entry has been purged and suggested for “speedy deletion.” I have not yet received replies to the charges from either Khatami, the University of Tehran, or the Durham University Philosophy Department.

UPDATE 2 (11/10/14): The wikipedia page has been spared deletion and has been revised. Meanwhile, the authors of the main post, below, have written in with some updates. The last one (E) is astounding.
(A) There are changes in the online presence of Khatami. You already knew it. Just something you did not mention: the book about Khatami by “Sophia Taylor” is not available anymore. However, we had saved the file, and have uploaded it here
(B) Many Iranian students and professors have shared the news on their FB. There are ongoing discussions on FB among mostly students but also some faculties about the news. Here is just one.
(C) Some Persian weblogs reported the news. Two instances: sharifphilosophy and kaavelajevardi 
(D) After publishing our statement, other people claimed to have found new instances of plagiarism. Most notably is a case of a whole-paper plagiarism reported by kv in the comments at Daily Nous.
(E) We were fairly surprised, and unnerved, when we first discovered a number of cases of blatant plagiarism in Khatami’s work. We now realize that he apparently stumbled upon an altogether different means of passing on another person’s work as his own. After the post on Daily Nous, Yasser Pouresmail, one of Khatami’s former undergrad students, reported that he was asked in 2008 to translate one of Khatami’s unpublished works. What Khatami failed to mention to Pouresmail was that this work was neither Khatami’s nor unpublished. The work was simply a selection from A Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy, vol. 1 (1916, pp. 161-329) by Cardinal Mercier. Cardinal Mercier would be relieved to know that his work has finally reached the Persian community! The Persian translation of Mercier’s book, Philosophical Psychology, is here.

UPDATE 3 (11/15/14): Several commenters have written in with further examples of plagiarism in Khatami’s work. Also, Fabio Paglieri, the current editor-in-chief of Topoi, has commented, below, on the plagiarized article that appeared in his journal (before he was EIC), and more generally on responding to plagiarism.


 A Case of Extensive Plagiarism and Academic Fraud

Dr. Mahmoud Khatami, a Durham University Ph.D., is a tenured, full professor of continental philosophy at the University of Tehran, a major academic institution in Iran. He has published many books on continental philosophy; in one year, 2010, ten (!) of them were published with Dr. Muller House. Dr. Muller House is a print on demand publishing house, and, as a result, the books published by the house seem to be of questionable academic value, yet these books have helped Khatami acquire academic credit in the University of Tehran. We learn from the fan blogs (update: blog has been removed) of Dr. Khatami that Sophia Taylor, who is, according to Amazon, a philosophy graduate from Lincoln University, has published a book on Khatami, entitled Khatami: A Primer of His Ontetic Philosophy of Human Subjectivity, published by the same Dr. Muller House. We could not find out whether Sophia Taylor is a real person, but there is no record of Sophia Taylor on the net except that she has published a book on Khatami.

Taylor’s book, which can be found online here, is a clear case of plagiarism, though. While pretending to be a book about Khatami, the book copies grotesquely pages and pages from John Paul II’s The Acting Person and  Dufrenne’s The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience. Just to give two instances:

1a. John Paul II’s book reads (quoted from here): “But we may speak of consciousness from the objective point of view also in a more specific manner with respect to the meaningful structure appertaining in consciousness to the ego, to its mode of being and operations spreading through a radius of interconnectedness. This sense, or more strictly speaking, this set of senses, consciousness owes to self-knowledge.”

1b. Taylor’s book (p.23): “Khatami speaks of consciousness from the objective point of view also in a more specific manner with respect to the meaningful constitution appertaining in consciousness to the self, to its mode of being and operations spreading through a radius of interconnectedness. This sense, or more strictly speaking, this set of senses, consciousness owes to self-knowledge”

2a. Dufrenne (p. 396): “For two reasons, aesthetic perception must not reject the evidence of a self-sufficient necessity within the work: (I) because it is the necessity of the work such as it is and not such as it might be; and (2) because this necessity is internal to the work and is not to be explained by traversing a series, or various series, of causes.”

2b: Taylor (p.143): “Khatami thinks that for two reasons, the evidence of a self-sufficient necessity within the world must not be rejected: (I) because it is the necessity of the world such as it is and not such as it might be; and (2) because this necessity is internal to the world and is not to be explained by traversing a series, or various series, of causes.”

Khatami defended his dissertation, entitled “The Unitary Consciousness: Toward a Solution for the Ontological Crisis in Modern Theories of the Self” in the philosophy department at the University of Durham in 1996. The dissertation was later published as a book (one of very few of Khatami’s books not published by Dr. Muller House or its variants). The dissertation is an amazing case of plagiarism. Pages after pages are directly copied  from the following works: The Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy, The Inner DimensionNaturalism and Subjectivism, Armstrong’s “Mind–Body Problem: Philosophical Theories” and Islamic Naturalism and Mysticism: A Philosophical Study of Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Bin Yaqsan (by Sami Hawi).

The passages taken from the latter book are particularly interesting. Hawi’s book is on Ibn Tufayl, while Khatami talks in his dissertation about Sadra. Replacing the name of Ibn Tufayl with that of Sadra, Khatami copied pages of Sami’s book in his dissertation. Here is just an instance:

3a. Hawi’s book: “He [Ibn Tufayl] depicts Hayy’s ‘blank’ and receptive mind as constituting and perfecting itself, and struggling to obtain far-reaching conclusions entirely on its own. Hayy’s progressive ascension has a a tint of inevitableness and necessity. Seemingly without any preconceived notions he achieve cognizance of causality, God, eternity of the world, and mysticism. It appears as though any mind will reach the same truths that Hayy reached if it took as its point of departure the unsophisticated given of experience and followed the canons of consistency. Thus, Alfred North Whitehead’s well-known dictum that….” (p.94)

3b. Khatami’s dissertation: “Sadra, for example, depicts our ‘blank’ and receptive mind as constituting and perfecting itself, and struggling to obtain far-reaching conclusions entirely on its own. Our progressive ascension, Sadra holds, has a tint of inevitableness and necessity. Seemingly without any preconceived notions we achieve cognisance of causality, God, eternity of the world, and mysticism.  It appears as though any mind will reach the same truths if it took as its point of departure the unsophisticated given of experience and followed the canons of consistency. Thus, Alfred North Whitehead’s well-known dictum that….” (p.29)

4a. Hawi’s book: “Ibn Tufayl believed, as instanced by Parts II and III of the treatise, that while theories may interpret facts, at the same time they abstract from the realities of the surrounding world as we encounter them in the locus of immediate experience. Pure theories, without concrete embodiment and without seeing them in their actual operation, estrange the mind from its natural dwelling place, the world of experience.” (p.101)

4b. Khatami’s dissertation: “The Illuminative school believes, as instanced by Sadra, that while theories may interpret facts, at the same time they abstract from the realities of the surrounding world as we encounter them in the locus of immediate experience. Pure theories , without concrete embodiment and without seeing them in their actual operation, estrange the mind from its natural dwelling place, the world of experience.” (p.33)

We could not find out who Khatami’s dissertation committee was. In the dissertation, Khatami does thank Christopher T. Long, who worked in the philosophy department and allegedly supervised Khatami. But we can’t find any record of a Christopher T. Long having worked at Durham University. The only things we could find are this academia page, and this philpapers profile. Despite what the profile says, though, nobody named C. Long published anything in that issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (or in any issue of PPR).

It is incredible that Durham University allowed the dissertation to be defended. We believe that the University of Tehran, Dr. Muller House publishing, and Durham University must be held accountable for such failures to fulfill their duties. It’s important, however, to note that the points made in this statement should not be generalized to other philosophy institutions in Iran as there are well-respected institutes as well as professional philosophers who are engaged in genuine work in philosophy.

 

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