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Plagiarism

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npeters
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I have just finished writing a paper titled "The Causal, Personal, and Moral Godless Universe" in which I use the Objectivist theory of Causality to refute the idea that without God the universe is chaotic, and I have briefly described the basis of Objectivist Ethics as well.

I have done so all without consulting any of the major works, just by my own memory from the study I have done.

Would it still be considered plagiarism for me to not cite works?

The reason I am slightly worried about this is that I cited ITOE on my last paper for this class and received "Rand is a crank, why are you citing her?" in the margin. I believe my grade suffered because of it and many other silly reasons, so I am being careful this time.

But I had to write on this topic because of how great Objectivism refutes the theist argument that without God, the universe is chaotic, impersonal, and amoral. I couldn't imagine writing on something less invigorating.

Edited by npeters
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I have done so all without consulting any of the major works, just by my own memory from the study I have done.

Would it still be considered plagiarism for me to not cite works? [...]

But I had to write on this topic because of how great Objectivism refutes the theist argument that without God, the universe is chaotic, impersonal, and amoral.  I couldn't imagine writing on something less invigorating.

Two suggestions:

(1) Immediately go to your department office and ask for a copy of the University's or the department's policy on plagiarism. The general guideline, I recall, is that if you did not think it up yourself or it isn't common knowledge, then cite a source.

(2) You might want to rethink part of your theme. I would say that a godless universe is amoral and impersonal. But, perhaps, you have a context in mind that isn't clear here.

Edited by BurgessLau
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npeters,

Would it still be considered plagiarism for me to not cite works?

The reason I am slightly worried about this is that I cited ITOE on my last paper for this class and received "Rand is a crank, why are you citing her?" in the margin. I believe my grade suffered because of it and many other silly reasons, so I am being careful this time.

First, here is one definition from www.dictionary.com of plagiarism:

n 1: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own

Since the ideas you are presenting are not yours, to not cite them would imply to the reader that you created the ideas. Although this is not your intent, this is still what the lack of citation implies. Therefore, I think it would be an example of plagiarism.

However, I completely understand the dilemma you face. I've stood in your shoes before when I wanted to use Ayn Rand as a source but had a professor who was hostile to her and her ideas.

Here are a couple of recommendations:

1. Talk to your professor. Ask him if his bias against Ayn Rand will be held against the paper, or if he will judge the paper for its own merit. While I've encountered anti-Objectivist professors, each time I've done this my professors have been intellectually honest enough not to just give me a bad grade because they didn't like my sources.

2. There are other published Objectivists you could use to communicate the same ideas. You can use these so that your professor won't be initially biased against your sources.

But again, I recommend not plagairizing. It is both immoral (dishonest) and impractical (you will most likely get caught and, as I'm sure you know, Universities take plagiarism very seriously).

Hope that helps!

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I would say that a godless universe is amoral and impersonal. But, perhaps, you have a context in mind that isn't clear here.

I argue that a godless universe is personal in the sense that one's life does not then belong to God, as is the case in many religions. I also explain how many religious views place man on a chessboard, forever in flux of the clutches of God and Satan. Only a godless universe allows life to exist as an end in itself, for it's own personal means and desires.

As for the universe being amoral, I explain how inanimate matter is amoral because it does not face the alternative of life and death. I go on to explain how only living beings do, and that morality is a fact inherent in being, not a supernatural construct.

Make sense in that context?

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The reason I am slightly worried about this is that I cited ITOE on my last paper for this class and received "Rand is a crank, why are you citing her?" in the margin.  I believe my grade suffered because of it and many other silly reasons, so I am being careful this time.

Professors these days sure do know how to encourage exploration by young minds.

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I would simply immediatlly withdraw from the class, no amount of money or value you will ever gain in you entire life is ever going to be worth selling out your principles to this idiot that somehow became a professor now. I would annouce to the professor in the middle of his class and lecture him on proper morals and philosophy in front on the whole group to put the guy in his place. But that's just me.

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I agree with the general sentiment here, that it would be dishonest and academically unacceptable for me to not cite Rand.

Therefore, I have prepared the following email, being very careful to not come off as rude or presumptious. I do however, kiss his butt with regard to my previous paper. It is my belief that I was graded incredibly unfairly, but for the sake of being on good terms with him I have decided I would just agree. For the record, I was not entirely pleased with my first paper, anyway.

While I have completed my paper on my own without having to directly cite any outside material as I said I would in class, I have realized that I am not the originator of many of the ideas that I present.  It would be dishonest and academically unacceptable for me to not cite Ayn Rand for her ideas on causality and ethics, which I have only briefly presented in my paper.

I tell you this because on my previous paper, which I also cited Rand, you wrote in the margin: "Rand is a crank, why are you citing her?"  While I understand and have learned from many of your criticisms on my previous paper, such as the inclusion of difficult and esoteric terminology and the fact that much of my paper was taken up by reference.  Yet, this is not the case with the paper I wrote today.  As I have already stated, I have written it entirely without direct citation, unlike the previous paper.  I cannot help but think that if I were to cite the Genesis story, you would not write "Moses is a crank" in the margin.  I am not implying that you graded with bias, but I am asking you whether or not my citations will come to you as a problem.  Will the paper be graded without your evaluation of my sources, and instead on the nature of the paper and its argument?

I think that my paper is significanly different from my last in that it is much easier to comprehend and follow, and will not suffer from many of the inflictions as my previous.  The only issue that will be similar to last will be my citations.

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Would it still be considered plagiarism for me to not cite works?
I think your reply is reasonably good, though I hope you rewrite it to catch errors of grammar and style. There is no chance that you will catch disciplinary hell as long as you do not include any unattributed quotes -- note that literature and philosophy as disciplines are rife with low-level idea theft.
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Well, I must say that this ended up much better than I had previously thought it would. I got a very rational response to my email. He had to backpedal a lot of comments he made on my previous paper, stating that he should have 'gone back and crossed it out but forgot'.

But he told me it would not be a problem.

Score for Ayn Rand, Objectivist ideas, and academic freedom.

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