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188 days before Christmas!
Friday, Oct 15, 2010, 12:34 AMType the word "plagiarism" in Google's search bar. Press the enter key. Wikipedia greets you right at the top of the page stating that "Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as 'the wrongful appropriation, close imitation, or purloining and publication, of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions, and the representation of them as one's own original work.'"
I read that definition of plagiarism and went over to my friend to ask her for a brief idea of the term in her own words. "Plagiarism is stealing another's ideas and claiming them as your own." Her answer is very similar to what I would have replied had we switched places. After all, that's what society does say about plagiarism. However, doea "stealing another's ideas" really make sense when we are all living in one planet -- the same playground of ideas for each and every thinking species? Plagiarism, therefore, is natural and not wrong.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an idea is a formulated thought or opinion. How does one formulate an idea anyway? Of course, certain stimuli in the surroundings help one produce ideas. For instance, getting stuck in the traffic jam can lead one to ideas of different natures, like how poorly the traffic enforcers are doing in the country, how the superstition that telling your dream before breakfast brings bad luck is probably true and got him or her stuck in traffic, or how the degree of traffic is a quartic function whose maximum value is equivalent to the rush hour. These are all ideas that may come from a single stimulus. The kind of ideas just depends upon how the person will react to it. Since there are billions of people across earth experiencing these usual human events, it is highly likely that there is duplication of ideas. Therefore, a person is not exclusively entitled to his or her ideas. The same goes for the case of authors. They had their ideas published. Publishing's purpose is not to serve as concrete evidence that they were able to come up with those ideas, but rather to share these ideas for the benefit of others. It would be improper to attach the ideas to their names since they may not be the only ones who have those ideas. They just got to publish them first. Even scientists do not entirely come up with scientific ideas alone. The ideas of others help them come up with ideas that may be supported by previously known ideas. Ideas are not like underwear that should be associated with one and only one person. Anyone can create an idea and base ideas on ideas based on ideas based on ideas and so it goes on. Otherwise, looking at the population that has existed since the beginning of time, the human race would have probably run out of ideas by now.
We are children all in the same playground called Earth. What one observes and makes ideas from can be the same as the one next to him or her. We can't build a fence extending all the way up to the heavens just so that our playmates wouldn't share our observations. If we do, for what would the ideas be for? Our only audience would be ourselves. Instead, we lay out all our ideas together for the benefit of each other. We learn from ideas, and they become our ideas.
Again, Wikipedia, a canvas of ideas contributed by millions of artists, says that "Plagiarism is DEFINED IN DICTIONARIES as 'the wrongful appropriation, close imitation, or purloining and publication, of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions, and the representation of them as one's own original work.'" I've been trying to look for a dictionary which gives that definition, but couldn't find any. Still, any other person could have viewed plagiarism in the same light and give that definition with the influence of previously published ideas or what he had read, learned, and inculcated into his being. He could have lifted the meaning off that dictionary which so influenced him that he naturally came up with the same definition. It wasn't his definition, but he made it his definition. It is plagiarism. It is not wrong. It is natural.