Topic-Appropriate Excuses for Plagiarism in Philosophy Papers


For a paper on time travel: “I didn’t plagiarize David Lewis’s 1976 American Philosophical Quarterly paper. In 1975, he traveled to the future and plagiarized me!”

That’s one of 10 “philosophically legitimate” plagiarism excuses offered up by Travis Timmerman (Seton Hall) over at McSweeney’s. He has a number of good ones, such as:

For a paper on the problem of evil: “Yes, my paper arguing that the evidential version of the problem of evil succeeds was plagiarized, but for good reason. The paper is a piece of performative philosophy. It serves as a prime example of the very issue being discussed.”

For a paper on skepticism: “You think I plagiarized, but you cannot rule out the possibility that an evil demon is implanting false memories to make it seem as if my paper is identical to another student’s paper. If you cannot prove that an evil demon isn’t implanting these false memories in you, then you cannot know that I plagiarized.”

The rest are here. I imagine readers can come up with some of their own. Share them in the comments.

Bridget Riley, “Copy after Seurat’s Bridge at Courbevoie”

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Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

Or perhaps the Lewis student could argue that all possible worlds exist, and that THIS world is the possible world where she and Lewis just happen to independently write exactly the same words on a paper.Report

Alan White
Alan White
3 years ago

But Professor! I was just expressing C L Stevenson’s view!Report

Joel David Hamkins
3 years ago

Let me prove that my logic paper was not an instance of plagiarism. In order to do so, consider the statement A, which asserts that “If A is true, then I wasn’t plagiarizing.” As a preliminary step, I shall prove that A is true. It is a conditional statement, so we can assume the hypothesis, which is A itself. But if A is true, then the hypothesis of A is true, and hence so is its conclusion. So I wasn’t plagiarizing, by modus ponens. Thus, we’ve proved that the conclusion of A follows from its premise, and so we’ve proved that A is true. Thus, the hypothesis of A is true, and hence so is its conclusion. So I wasn’t plagiarizing! QEDReport

Paul
Paul
3 years ago

Travis Timmerman: “I think you plagarized.”

Socrates: “What is plagarism?”

*Travis gives a definition. Socrates gives counterexamples. Travis revises definition. Socrates gives more counterexamples. This process repeats itself 10X. By the end of the dialogue Socrates concludes that since no one has a satisfactory definition of plagiarism, nobody knows if Socrates really plagiarized.*Report

DeadAuthor
DeadAuthor
3 years ago

“You’ve just copied and pasted ‘Death of the Author’ by Roland Barthes.”
“Yes.”
“…”
“…”
“And this other essay is just ‘Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ by Walter Benjamin.”
“Yes.”
“…”
“…”Report

Mark Jones
3 years ago

For a paper on identity: “Yes, I plagiarised, but the original paper was written by a copy of me generated after an accident in a teleportation machine.”Report

Clement
Clement
3 years ago

“With regard to the recent accusations about my plagiarism, here is what happened. When I was writing the text on Derrida which contains the problematic passages, a friend told me about Kevin Macdonald’s theories, and I asked him to send me a brief resume. The friend send [sic] it to me, assuring me that I can use it freely since it merely resumes another’s line of thought.”

“Over the years, bodies of material, as they moved from notes to notes and drafts to drafts, sometimes lost contact with their sources.”
Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
3 years ago

“Sure, I didn’t write this paper on Rawls. But why should the real author get credit and not me? Her superior philosophical skills are just the result of good genes and/or fortuitous upbringing, neither of which she earned.”Report

Smith&Jones
Smith&Jones
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 years ago

I find this one strangely compelling. Report

Travis Timmerman
3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this Justin! Here’s one from the cutting room floor.

For a paper on actualism in ethics: “I really wanted to write an original paper, but I was obligated to plagiarize because if I didn’t plagiarize this paper, my future self would have plagiarized two papers! I shouldn’t be punished for simply fulfilling my moral obligations.”Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
3 years ago

“No, I didn’t write this paper on property. But no one has used the paper in 30 years, so it reverted back to the commons where I justly appropriated it.”Report

harry b
3 years ago

I’ve heard a story about Marilyn Adams which may well be apocryphal, but shouldn’t be. She hauled an undergraduate into her office whose paper she believed to be plagarized. After a brief discussion, she asked the student “How did you think you would get away with it?”, to which the student responded “Well, I knew you would agree with what I said, and I thought that since you wrote the paper a long time ago you’d have forgotten about it”.

I did once get a paper which had plagarized a paper by my then colleague Noel Carroll. I recognized it because, by an odd coincidence, I had also just read Noel’s paper. When I told Noel about it he said I should give her an A for having good taste.Report

Steve
Steve
3 years ago

For a paper on Confucian ethics: ‘I decided to test whether imitation really is the easiest route to wisdom. Guess not’

For a paper on Mill: ‘it didn’t harm anyone!’

For a paper on Kantian ethics: ‘But everyone else did it as well!’Report