Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 24, 2012 in News & Opinion |

I was wondering, just in a passing moment, how much time would, or could go by before someone who writes a blog, a journal, a regular series of news articles or whatever begins to repeat themselves. I don’t mean repeat themselves because of a lack of new material, heaven knows there is enough in our small world to keep anyone occupied for several lifetimes, but perhaps because they have either worked themselves into a rut or simply cannot remember what they have put out earlier.

I imagine this to be more likely with a personal blog, on the private side of things, repeating the same actions and work patterns each and every day – getting up, eating, working, leisure time, family time, sleeping in a form of set routine – and also in some professional areas such as writing reviews. There are, after all, only so many things you can say or write about a work of art, a theater play, a piece of music or a book. There are only so many superlatives, only so many ways of forming bitter condemnation in words, only so many ways of describing a recurring event, scene or thought.

We’ve already reached the stage, in Germany at least, where people who write dissertations for their Ph.D begin to repeat themselves. Or, rather, begin to repeat other people. The difference here is that they know they are repeating others, but don’t necessarily realize that other people will come to see the repetitions too. Yes, yet another politician has been caught out with unquoted quotes in a thesis for their Doctor title, and been forced to relinquish both the title and their position in government.

Is this just a German thing, the plagiarism of written works, or does it happen in every university and college around the world?

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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  • Francois says:

    Is this just a German thing, the plagiarism of written works, or does it happen in every university and college around the world?

    President of Hungary: caught on March 29 2012, resigned.

    President of Ukraine: wrote “university proffessor” (his spelling) as his profession on his cv prior to the 2010 election. In fact, he never went beyond the ninth grade and is a car mechanic. At university age, he was serving a 3-year sentence for robbery and assault (in jail, he earned the nickname “beast” for his astonishing brutality.)

    On a more serious note than politics, plagiarism is less common in the USA where experience matters more than education. The reverse in Europe.

    • viki says:

      It’s a strange trend at the moment, with many journalists and private people targeting politicians following the discovery of Guttenberg’s plagiarism. I’m not sure that it is really widespread – nor would I underestimate how many people have changed a few words to make something their own – but it rears its ugly head now and then, not just in the political world but also in the world of literaturwe; beginning about fifteen years ago when a French woman won the land’s highest prize with a plagiarised novel.

  • Daniel says:

    Plagiarism is a problem pretty much through-out the world, and has been for some time.

    It’s worth noting that America’s “Ivy League” schools resist the use of software specifically designed to scan papers to detect plagiarism, though this software is used by many of our other colleges and universities. I don’t know whether their present cohorts grasp the fact that, while they may still be able to successfully plagiarize in the generation of term papers, their theses and dissertations are likely eventually to be scanned, albeït not before degrees are awarded.

  • Francois says:

    It is a blunt sword that cannot be turned against its wielder…

    Ivy League schools may be resisting plagiarism-detecting systems because they know a student will eventually run it on tenured proffessors’s (I like this spelling) publications. Or, God forbid, alumni’s.

    Plagiarism has been rising worldwide since the Baby Boomers got into colleges and universities. That was the largest wave of academic registrations in history and BBs preferred the humanities to “hard” disciplines. They paid good money to get a degree but their chosen fields had no new discoveries to offer (Philosophy: bravely commenting Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle since 322 BC, 10 million served.)

    Just out of a flame war with an M.A. in Art Psychotherapy who believes every word Aleister Crowley has ever written and calls him “the Prophet”. In the mood for this: a postgraduate degree without mathematics is a piece of paper.

  • Daniel says:

    Plagiarism may indeed be on the rise as an artefact of Baby Boomer ethoi, but the two plagiarist who came first to my mind in the present discussion were Martin Luther King jr and Joseph Robinette Biden jr, neither of them Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers may have preferred humanities to hard disciplines, but so did earlier cohorts, and those disciplines that used mathematics in the past are typically even more mathematical under the Baby Boomers, so comparisons would be misleading.

    I’m sure that there are a significant number of professors and other academic officials who achieved their positions by way of plagiarism and of other forms of academic dishonesty. I doubt that they’d much avoid exposure by not scanning the work of their students. Rather, I think that officials of Ivy League schools recognize that they are teaching offspring of a class which has quietly licensed itself to engage in plagiarism and such; and many of these officials — even those who themselves got their degrees honestly — fear the consequences (to their institutions and to their own positions) of reform.

    My degree is not in philosophy, but I would note that I philosophical work is continued commentary on the work of Socrates, Platon, and Aristoteles in about the same sense as mathematical work is continued commentary on the work of Thales, Euclid, and Archimedes. And it is certainly possible to plagiarize or otherwise appropriate the work of others within disciplines that make extensive use of mathematics.

    Notwithstanding that I have a postgraduate degree with a considerable amount of mathematics, I’d say that mathematics is not necessary for a postgraduate degree to have considerable merit, and that mathematical instruction and performance is certainly not sufficient for a postgraduate degree to have any merit.

  • Francois says:

    Daniel, as I wrote, my sentiment came after a heated discussion with a person who claims a Master of Arts degree in Art Psychotherapy (I myself have only a BS in Comparative Basket Weaving, so I may not be qualified to judge.)

    There is no such discipline as Art Psychotherapy unless La Sorbonne suddenly became exceedingly serious about explaining the smile on La Jioconda (and I would not put it past the French sense of humour: look at their current presidential elections…) Art Therapy, yes. Art Psychotherapy, no.

    The person butted into a serious conversation about depression with “As a proffessional (I am sticking with this spelling) Psychologist, I think depression has many causes.”

    Instead of the canonical no shit Sherlock, I replied “Dear X, did you get that from the Prophet, from baby-sitting the loonies while they finger paint, or do you mean that affective disorders have diverse and complex etiologies?”

    The rest, as they say, is history on Google Plus. Three quickies before I go May Firsting:

    1- I have earned the right to call mentally ill people anything I choose, explanation upon request.

    2- Euler, Hilbert, and Godel are not on the same line in the history of Mathematics as Thales and his descendants. Especially Godel.

    3- This conversation really belongs on Google Plus where I hope you are registered and encouraging every single person you know to register down to the eighth degree of separation. A large wink here.

  • Daniel says:

    My claim was not that active mathematics has become nothing but commentary on Thales, Euclid, and Archimedes. Rather, my claim was that the analogous claim about philosophy in relation to Socrates, Platon, and Aristoteles would be about as true.

    As to the relationship of Euler, Hilbert, and Goedel to Thales, I very much beg to differ. And I would note that Goedel’s Theorem represents only one of a long string of crises for mathematics; the first of which I’m aware in fact dates to the Classical Greeks, with the discovery of irrational numbers. A famous crisis between that earlier and Goedel’s later was the recognition of internally consistent non-Euclidean geometries, most often associated with Gauss, Lobachevsky, Bolyai, and sometimes Reimann, but in fact actually first made by the philosopher Thomas Reid.

    I avoid Google+ as a result of Google’s aggressive mining of user information.

  • Francois says:

    And Shing-Tung Yau, Minkowski (spelling?), and Poincaré. But yes, Reimann, certainly Reimann.

    Daniel, if you take everything I write here seriously, you will not be enjoying it as much as you could. Seriously.

    Just to recap: I agree with you and my original comment was written in anger after a flame war with someone who has a post-graduate degree in Advanced Futility. That person has now be duly carbonised.

    I often use hyperbole to express my opinions (how did I manage to bring back Lobachevsky here?) and my condemnation of “soft” postgraduate degrees was an instance. I now am back to my normal, serene, archangelic, and legendary tolerance.

    As to Google+, the objective is to recruit everyone you know and for them in turn to recruit etc. to the seventh generation. You, yourself, do not have to be registered on Google+ to contribute to this noble endeavour.

    You spell “Platon”, are you French?


    Francois (usually with a cedilla)

  • Daniel says:

    I have a markèd preference for minimally altering personal names, which is why I use Platon* and Aristoteles. (My understanding is that the French typically reduce Aristoteles to Aristote, which is perhaps even more dire than Aristotle.)

    *As you may already know, Platon may actually have been named Ἀριστοκλής, but that is in dispute, and in any case those who both knew him and wrote of him seem all to have called him Πλάτων.

  • Francois says:

    “marked” with an e grave… a clue?

  • Daniel says:

    A clue to the fact that I tend to write as I speak. In certain contexts, I say /ˈmaɹkəd/ rather than /ˈmaɹkt/.

    (Although most alleged Anglophones don’t know this, there are in English a couple of ways of indicating that a vowel which otherwise might not be sounded is, while remaining unstressed. First, there is the diæresis on a solitary vowel, as in Brontë; second, in the case of a still unstressed vowel, there is the grave accent.)

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