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Posner on Plagiarism

Sixties activist Abbie Hoffman had Steal this Book. Now 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner contributes to the annals of lift literature with The Little Book of Plagiarism. While Hoffman's book was a how-to, Posner's is more a how-not-to. But, as Hoffman sought then to take on the status quo, Posner does now -- taking on mainstream assumptions about plagiarism as a legal and ethical offense.

In a review of Posner's book at the blog virtual philosopher, Nigel Warburton calls it "by far the best treatment of plagiarism I've read." Posner opens the book, Warburton notes, with the case of Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard undergrad whose 2006 novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, was alleged to have plagiarized from two novels written by Megan McCafferty. Warburton writes:

"Posner goes on to explore the subtleties of motivation, reception and culpability of a range of literary, student and academic plagiarists and near-plagiarists as well as the phenomenon of ghostwriting, and the difficulties of writing textbooks without borrowing ideas. Throughout he distinguishes plagiarism, which involves adopting other people’s expression of ideas and passing them off as if they were your own, from using other people’s ideas but expressing these in your own way."

Warburton stops short of recommending that anyone steal this book, but he has no reservations about recommending that you buy it.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 8, 2007 at 05:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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