Current Events, Academic Philosophy

No, John Finnis, plagiarism is NOT “proper and accepted”.

There’s been some discussion here, here, and elsewhere over Neil Gorsuch’s plagiarism of Abigail Lawlis Kuzma’s 1984 article “The Legislative Response to Infant Doe” from *The Indiana Law Journal* in his book *The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia* (Princeton University Press, 2006).
This book was based, at least in part, on Gorsuch’s Oxford D.Phil thesis. So, I was curious if the plagiarism occurred there, too.
 It does.
On pp.456 – 457 of his thesis Gorsuch copies verbatim several lines of Kuzma’s words (from pp. 378 – 379 in her article) and then cites a source that she cites as the source of the view that he’s outlining. He does not acknowledge that he has used Kuzma’s words verbatim. Indeed, he does not cite her at all in his thesis. Nor does he acknowledge that she, and not he, first identified the source that he cites. That’s plagiarism. (I haven’t attempted to determine if there are any more plagiarized passages in the thesis.)
(NB: I have edited the paragraph above for clarity and included links to the relevant material. I originally wrote that Gorsuch “quoted” Kuzma, which he did, but some commentators have understood this to mean that he used her words and then cited them. This is a reasonable construal of what I wrote, as most people believe that if you “quote” someone this involves citing your sources. The problem is that Gorsuch quoted Kuzma without acknowledging that he was using her words! And that’s plagiarism.)
Now, I’m the Academic Integrity Officer at The College of New Jersey, and I see a couple of cases like this from students each semester. In these cases the decision is always the same: An easy decision that an academic integrity violation has occurred, and a fairly stringent grade penalty.  This is because not only does this form of plagiarism exhibit theft of someone else’s work (here, the work of Kuzma to track down the appropriate account of Down’s syndrome) but in deliberately obscuring this intellectual debt the student is clearly intentionally plagiarizing.
If Gorsuch’s thesis had come before me, it would have received precisely the same treatment as a term paper written by a freshman TCNJ student.
But things get worse. John Finnis, Gorsuch’s D.Phil supervisor, has issued a statement claiming that “Gorsuch’s writing and citing was easily and well within the proper and accepted standards of scholarly research and writing in the field of study in which he and I work.”
Now, I can’t speak for law (!) but if Finnis is referring here to philosophy this claim is just not true. It’s also not true given Oxford’s own definition of plagiarism. Again, Gorsuch’s D.Phil thesis has been plagiarized–and that is NOT acceptable in academic philosophy. And for Finnis to claim that it is is likely to make my job as an Academic Integrity Officer just that much harder.
This is all very disappointing.
  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    The “work” that Gorsuch apparently misappropriated was Kuzma’s quotation of a popular medical textbook. I suspect the relevant passage has been quoted hundreds of times in academic papers. Are you saying that Kuzma was the first scholar to quote this passage in the academic world? If not, do you know if she acknowledged these earlier quotations in her law review article? If there were earlier quotations than her’s, should Gorsuch have acknowledged both the earlier quotation, then her’s as well? Is your opinion affected by the fact that the “victim” is not complaining? From your first link: “Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, whose law review article Gorsuch supposedly lifted from, said in a statement she doesn’t see a problem, as the passages are factual, not analytical. ‘Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language,’ she said.”

    • James Taylor

      You misunderstand what plagiarism is. If student A plagiarizes from student B, and student B shugs and says “That’s fine!”, student A is STILL guilty of plagiarism (And student B would be guilty of academic misconduct if she facilitated this.)

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        She didn’t say “That’s fine.” She explained WHY she was not offended; an explanation you ignore.

        • James Taylor

          And any account that she will provide won’t undermine the fact that this act constituted plagiarism–a fact that you seem to ignore.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Ah, because you say so.

          • James Taylor

            No. Because under the definition of “plagiarism” he plagiarized.

    • James Taylor

      King Goat has teh correct response to your first concern here.

    • Sean II

      Yes, yes…and let me add: it’s not Gorush’s fault that academia has over time chosen to exploit the moral leverage of the word “plagiarism” as a general weapon to enforce citation format.

      In common parlance plagiarism means “you stole a lot”, or “the best part isn’t yours”, or “that wasn’t your idea”, or some such like.

      Plagiarism – in the sense that rightly makes people mad – doesn’t mean “you forgot to credit both A and B when you were crediting A”. But that’s all it seems to mean here.

      ____________________________________
      Interesting how the big freak out continues, but devolves to focus on ever smaller targets.

      Back in February we had Skwire and Horowitz insisting that stormtroopers at the door “isn’t a thought experiment anymore”.

      Now we’re down to: Ivanka doesn’t seem to know what complicit means, and Gorusch apparently botched a footnote.

      I’m sure these perspectives will age well.

      • James Taylor

        I think all of these perspectives will age *very* well indeed! The defense of fraud and contract violation–which is what Gorsuch is guilty of given his plagiarism, and violation of his explicit contract with Oxford not to engage in this–won’t.

        • Sean II

          Here’s an analogy to help you understand.

          Let’s say some college has a problem with kids texting in class. So they decide to clamp down.

          So they write the harshest policy they can dream up. Something like: “texting in class shall henceforth be considered peace disturbance (because it distracts others students), cheating (because maybe kids are googling shit to say in an effort to boost their participation grade), and theft (because those receiving financial aid took money on a promise they would use it to learn).

          Naturally some students will run afoul of this policy, and get whacked for violating the absurdity-filled Code of Conduct they signed at orientation.

          Years later, you point at one of these guys and screech: “He’s a hooligan! He’s a cheat! He’s a thief! He broke a contract! Shame, shame, shame!”

          I ask: “What did he do exactly?”

          You say: “He texted in class! Something he’d explicitly promised not to…”

          Here I rightly respond: “I don’t care. Thieves, cheats, and hooligans are bad news, but you really shouldn’t use those words in full force to punish petty offenses, and the action you described doesn’t even come close to doing the things which actually make people angry about theft, cheating, and hooliganism.”

          This is like that. Professors (and really no one else!) have a big stake in making sure every measly little author gets credit for every measly little word. So they wrote rules expanding the definition of plagiarism to the outer ring of absurdity.

          Now we’re at a point where the same word is used to describe someone who forgets to credit a graph, as is used to describe someone who wins a poetry contest by turning in “Hey you, out there in the cold, getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me?”

          The latter is a plagiarism by common parlance. The former is just a guy who in minor fashion broke some rule most people couldn’t care less about.

          It’s silly to use the same label for both.

          • James Taylor

            ‘So they wrote rules expanding the definition of plagiarism to the outer ring of absurdity.” Thank you for making explicit you have no interest at all in intellectual integrity, or being truthful. And now I invoke Munger’s Angry Squirrel! 🙂

          • Sean II

            Petty official loses all sense of proportion and confuses the fine print in his bureau with the laws of heaven itself.

            Seems a very old story. Who should get the credit for that one, James?

          • RJL

            My friend is doing revisions on his doctoral diss after his viva. He was told to give a footnote reference for the claim that other countries in the middle east are hostile to Israel.

          • Sean II

            Ha! Also funny when you see some piece of ancient, ownerless wisdom being credited to the account of a mediocre post-doc at Cornfield U.

            “It has been observered that social status competition is a primary driver of high accomplishment in many fields (Prendergast, 1996)”

            And you’re thinking: “Haven’t we known THAT since Koheleth?”

          • j_m_h

            So in 20 years we’ll be footnoting each word’s definition and the dictionary the definition was drawn from.

  • It is controversies like this that show why considering written material as property is foolish, so called Intellectual Property. Footnotes should exist so readers can confirm or go deeper into what the author is saying. Footnotes should not exist to protect the author of claims of plagiarism. In what way were previous authors damaged.

    • James Taylor

      The issue is not whether persons have been harmed, but whether Gorsuch fraudulently claimed someone else’s work as his own–which is what plagiarism is.

      • Schools can make any rules they want, if he broke the school rule, so be it. I am not a partisan for Gorsuch, just think bring up the issue of plagiarism in this case and others is foolish. If he makes correct rulings as a judge, who cares what he did as a student.

        • James Taylor

          I’m not sure what the implications of this for his nomination should be. (I actually thought he was a very good pick for the Court, after talking with people I respect who know a lot about legal matters.) But it certainly speaks a lot to his integrity–which might or might not be relevant here. (I’m inclined to think that it is, as I’d prefer a judge who tried to do the best he could to uphold the Constitution.. and a plagiarizer doesn’t seem to fit this billl, at least at first sight.) And I’m just as concerned about Finnis’ statement as Gorsuch’s actions!

          • So is plagiarist like pedophile. Once a plagiarist always a plagiarist. Should he have to paint a red P on this forehead? Do I have to note that I am paraphrasing the concept introduced to me by Nathaniel Hawthorne, or do I need to go back further in history?

          • James Taylor

            That’s a rather harsh response to my very moderate reply! To say that Gorush has in the not too distant past repeatedly plagiarized (true) and hence been untruthful (also true) and that (as far as I know) he has not uttered one word of apology or defense does, I think, speak to his integrity. And, again, I’m not sure how much weight should be put on this concerning his current nomination.

          • Sean II

            You’re onto something big here.

            We need a national offender registry.

            The thought of unattributed paraphrases hanging around the parks where my children play, makes me sick.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You funny.

          • Sean II

            This is no laughing matter, Mark.

            These fiends know your kids better than you do. They deliberately start the grooming process with Powerpoint.

            “You don’t need endnotes, Susie. It’s only a harmless little slideshow.”

            That clears a path for the real horrors, like using Wikipedia to reverse engineer a bibliography.

            You wanna kill just thinking about it.

          • Chris Thomas

            Please write a book. It’s tragic to watch a modern day Mencken go unnoticed in the obscurity of blog comments. I’m really not joking. You’re insightful (though I don’t always agree with you), and you are CONSISTENTLY, SIDESPLITTINGLY HILARIOUS.

          • Sean II

            I’m working on it, and thank you!

          • HermanStone

            Of course. You deserve the praise.

            Side question: Do you ever comment at Slate Star Codex? And why not?? I think your style and perspectives would fit in very nicely there, and the comments section is quite lively and intelligent.

          • Sean II

            I love SSC. The only reason I don’t comment there is fear that it would consume too much of my life.

            I’m not the first person to wonder this, but how Scott writes so much while living the life of a resident is a mystery to those of us weaklings who occasionally eat and sleep.

      • j_m_h

        When I was in school on of my professors made a comment that I think is pretty true. “No one writes anything that’s original; but no one has written the idea in just the same way as you” That applied to the overall paper/essay and thought.
        Yes, every now and then something truly original emerges but that’s very rare. So in generally I’d say academics have very little rights to claim strong property rights in a statement unless one is tracing the entire history of the idea to it’s source (which is often not even possible and would result in no paper ever being written).

    • James Taylor

      If you wish to make a more libertarian argument against Gorsuch’s act here, it would be easy to do so. By matriculating into Oxford he agreed to abide by Oxford’s (privately enacted, explicitly stated) rules governing the conduct of its members. In plagiarizing he violated those rules.

      • Mark Brady

        For what it’s worth, I don’t remember that I ever encountered the word “plagiarism” in the three years I was an undergraduate at Oxford University, 1966-69. To the best of my knowledge, no tutor ever mentioned the word and I never read the word in any document. But that was before you were born, James, and, I’ll grant you my memory is not perfect!

  • King Goat

    Two people writing about the same fact pattern are going to describe, as in this case, the facts as taken from several primary sources (in this case a medical textbook, a newspaper article and a court ruling) in similar language. But Gorsuch directly, nearly verbatim uses Kuzma’s exact phrasing. It’s clear he read and used Kuzma’s article in writing his work, and in not citing her he has committed plagiarism, all the motivated reasoning aside by those who would try to deflect it for partisan loyalties.

    • Theresa Klein

      Okay, maybe I misunderstood something. The post above says that Gorsuch “directly quotes” Kuzma. Did he steal the text without attribution, or does he quote her … as in putting her words in quotation marks with a citation to her paper at the end?

      • James Taylor

        The former–he took text without attribution.

        • Theresa Klein

          Ahh. Ok that is not clear from the original blog post.

  • James Taylor

    King Goat is precisely right-and has helpfully saved me a couple of minutes writing the same thing! 🙂

    • King Goat

      The responses are just deflection anyway from the question of whether this would under the norms of academe, which Gorsuch was obliged to follow, plagiarism. They’re all variants of ‘we’ll it’s not a bad example of plagiarism because the person he borrowed from is ok with it and she borrowed some herself’ or ‘well plagiarism isn’t the big deal those fancy ivory tower residents treat it as,’ which is irrelevant to whether he violated the norms he was supposed to be following here.

      • Lacunaria

        Violating the “norms” is an interesting question. Given Gorsuch’s body of work, what percentage of it evinces this kind of plagiarism and how does that compare to the average? I don’t see anyone actually using this essential metric.

        Instead, you argue that “it’s not a big deal” (a metric of normalcy) is not pertinent. Then you appeal to a strict contractual absolute (non-normal) violation. And finally, you claim you are measuring norms.

        • King Goat

          Im arguing ‘it’s not a big deal’ is irrelevant to the question of ‘is the example plagiarism?’ Something that falls under what’s defined as plagiarism doesn’t become not so because it’s one page out of 400 in a work. You might say it was a rare or anomalous case of plagiarism, but the page in question just plainly does fall under plagiarism.

          A person could have a contract hundreds of pages long, but if he violated the provision on page 325 he could still be said to not abided by it.

          Or again, of all the ways to cheat in football slightly deflating some of the game balls is a small one. Is it the end of the world or even determinative of the game what Brady did? No. But was it cheating? Yes. Likewise what Gosruch did on that page, albeit one of many, was plainly plagiarism. He clearly drew upon and used Kuzma’s specific phrasing throughout the page without attribution. That’s plagiarism.

          • Lacunaria

            I agree, strictly speaking it may be plagiarism and possibly a violation of contract, but my point is that you are measuring ideals and not the norms of Oxford or academia, now or back then.

            What’s odd is that this kind of plagiarism is most certainly identified by computers nowadays and the norms surely changed once precise degrees of plagiarism could be determined by a quick computer search, but no one is talking about this.

            What’s disappointing is that this question of plagiarism has a well-quantified answer, but we are instead guessing with anecdotes and hypothetical strictness. Those who identified this looked for a certain degree of similarity (perhaps even with some false positives), they know whether Gorsuch is outside the mean for that time for this degree of similarity, and they probably even know the degree of similarity required to meet the plagiarism standards of various institutions, now and in the past.

            In fact, it would be great if Taylor could comment on the effects of automation on plagiarism, and whether he would really fail or dock Gorsuch a letter grade or simply suggest he add a cite.

          • James Taylor

            The norms haven’ changed at all. It’s just that a lot of plagiarism is now much easier to catch! Had this degree of plagiarism appeared in a paper and I’d adjudicated the case as an Academic Integrity Officer, I’d have failed the paper.

          • Lacunaria

            What does “fail” translate to for a philosophy doctoral thesis? Could it be as mild as “you should add a footnote because the computer flagged it?”

            And on what basis are you saying that the norms haven’t changed at all?

            The very fact that it is easier to find would seem to create a new standard for how much someone else’s words need to be changed for them to become your words.

            Who do you use to perform your searches? Shouldn’t they have an objective answer to the question of plagiarism norms?

  • Jeff R.

    So, correct me if I’m wrong, but to summarize, Gorsuch quoted Kuzma and appropriately cited her work, but actually borrowed more from Kuzma than he gave credit for, including borrowing a quote or two from one of her sources.

    That’s not good, but it doesn’t strike me as the worst thing in the world, either. There’s Monica Crowley plagiarism, where you steal quotes or entire blocks of text from other sources and pretend its your own, which, to invent a term, strikes me as sort of First Degree Plagiarism. This is more like Misdemeanor Plagiarism. Pay a fine. Do 200 hours of community service, have it expunged from your record after five years.

    • Sean II

      You’re letting him off way too easy.

      I say we round up 100 of the sleaziest scumbags we can find and then make Gorusch go through an ordeal where for a couple weeks he pretends to take them seriously as moral and intellectual leaders.

      That’ll show the bastard.

      • jdkolassa

        He already went before the Senate.

        • Sean II

          Time served it is!

    • James Taylor

      That sounds perfectly reasonable. It recognizes that he plagiarized, and that there are degrees of plagiarism.

    • King Goat

      “Gorsuch quoted Kuzma”

      I think there’s a misunderstanding. When Taylor says Gorsuch ‘directly quotes Kuzma’ he doesn’t mean he quotes her using quotation marks, he means he wrote down lines of Kuzma’s exact phrasing from her article without an attribution that these were her quotes (instead he cited the original sources that she cited as the source of the information she used in her phrasing).

      • Jeff R.

        Okay, that’s worse than what I originally thought.

        Still, I wouldn’t be inclined to get too bent out of shape about it if this is an isolated incident, which I presume is likely due to the scrutiny the guy’s been under.

        • King Goat

          I’m not inclined to ever be too harsh about this kind of thing, but I can understand why people in the field find it to be bad.

          It reminds me of the NFL controversy ‘deflategate.’ You’ve got people like Mark or Sean who defend Brady by saying things like ‘who cares if the football is pumped a bit more or less, that’s not really cheating like using steroids or something?’ or ‘it’s a stupid rule, minutiae in an overblown rule book created by self important officials.’ And you’ve got people like Taylor whose like Goodell and sees an infraction like this as undermining the integrity of the game. I’m a Patriots fan, so perhaps I’m biased, but I don’t want Brady kicked out of the NFL. Having said that, if he deflated the ball he cheated. Deflecting the charge of cheating with things like ‘well it’s a stupid rule, indicative of too much rule making, and a player like Brady never really agreed to the rule so there’s no loss of integrity on him’ is silly. Dude cheated, by the rules of the game he knew well existed when he decided to play in the NFL (and reap all the benefits he did from doing so).

        • Sean II

          “…due to the scrutiny the guy’s been under.”

          You got it.

          The real story here is that with one of the biggest crowdsourced dirt digs in the history of the nomination process, this is the best anyone could come up with for a scandal.

          • King Goat

            Hm, he clearly broke the agreed upon rules of the academic community he chose to be a part of, but I would think the *best* scandal, for actual libertarians, and not bog-standard conservatives squatting on libertarian comment boards, would easily be the truly weird communitarian paternalism exhibited in his book on assisted suicide. For Gorsuch, the libertarian axiom, often considered *the* libertarian axiom, that you own yourself is just not true.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Just to be absolutely clear on the substance of the author’s position. From the OP,
    “An easy decision that an academic integrity violation has occurred, and a fairly stringent grade penalty. This is because not only does this form of plagiarism exhibit theft of someone else’s work (here, the work of Kuzma to track down the appropriate account of Down’s syndrome) but in deliberately obscuring this intellectual debt the student is clearly intentionally plagiarizing.” (my emphasis).

    The victim of the “theft” says (from the author’s first link): “Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, whose law review article Gorsuch supposedly lifted from, said in a statement she doesn’t see a problem, as the passages are factual, not analytical. ‘Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language,’ she said.”

    Author’s reply this this point: “It’s plagiarism.” Ah, okay, now I get it.

    • James Taylor

      Good! I’m glad that you’ve finally realized that plagiarism is plagiarism. It really isn’t that hard.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        I know you’re a special kind of libertarian, i.e. the bleeding heart variety, but I would have thought that libertarians of any stripe would not wish to punish victimless “crimes.” What Gorsuch referred to was a non-controversial, well-known, aspect of Down’s syndrome. He cited the source of this information, a medical textbook, for crying out loud. Kuzma, who previously quoted this passage (there may have been several before her), understands that she did nothing special, which is why she sees it as unproblematic. Who the hell has been harmed here. You, and others, apparently with too much time on your hands, want to smear Gorsuch’s for some act that apparently only bothers you. Next, you will want to lock-up competent adults up for buying recreational drugs, because this too offends you for some reason. Now, I really have better things to do, even if you don’t.

        • James Taylor

          I’m pleased to hear that you have better things to do than defend plagiarism contract violation, and untruthfulness!

          • King Goat

            “What Gorsuch referred to was a non-controversial, well-known, aspect of Down’s syndrome. He cited the source of this information, a popular medical textbook, for crying out loud.”

            I don’t know if he’s willfully ignoring the point that Gorsuch *directly lifts Kuzma’s specific phrasing* from her original article information from the textbook (and two other sources) or doesn’t get that therein lies the plagiarism, but it’s funny that in just repeating his same irrelevant point over and over he’s kind of starting to plagiarize himself 😉

        • Sean II

          Also important to mention:

          Libertarians typically reject arguments of the form “okay this rule is stupid but you did promise to obey it, so now you must treat the stupid rule as a categorical imperative.”

          Indeed we especially reject those arguments when some guild has seized control of an entry barrier and used its power to make everyone who joins sign off on a long list of stupid rules.

          We do this in part because we recognize that coerced agreement with over-written rulebooks is not the same thing as a promise freely made.

          So that “breach of contract” nonsense is the worst argument going.

          • King Goat

            Oxford is a private institution. Like other private institutions such as corporations, homeowner associations, etc., they make entire books of rules the people who join their private associations are expected to follow. Reciprocally, the institutions are also expected to follow them. The various employee, HOA by-laws, and student handbooks are incorporated as part of the contract between corporation-employee, university-student, HOA-homeowner. What prominent libertarian can you cite rejects the idea that people who join such associations should follow such rules?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Me: Why are you trying to punish Gorsuch for an act that harmed no one?
            Taylor: It’s plagiarism.
            Me: Are you willing to lock-up competent adults up for buying marijuana?
            Taylor: It’s illegal isn’t it!

          • King Goat

            Drop this straw man. He has never said it’s illegal but rather that it’s a violations of the rules and norms of the institution of which he voluntarily agreed to.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            And Oxford revoked his PhD, right? Please cite the evidence that Oxford regards this as an issue. Now, I hear your mommy calling you for dinner…

          • King Goat

            So a person breaks his organizations rules and if the organization itself seems not to take action no one can point out that there was a violation of the rule in that action?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            The OP talks of a “theft.” As I have said now for at least the 5th time (talk about being non-responsive!): there is no theft because no one has been HARMED. Oxford’s inaction and the defense mounted by Professor Finnis, his academic adviser, supports my point. Now, please go away before your mommy takes away your internet privileges.

          • King Goat

            When someone says Tom Brady stole that game against the Colts do you also assume they want a larceny investigation?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Tom Brady (you say) stole a game. If so, that was wrong ‘cuz he cheated the other team. It would be an ethical if not a legal violation. My point is that Gorsuch cheated no one and harmed no one. So, to summarize. Oxford has a rule against plagiarism. That rule is designed to protect certain interests, e.g. those of other academics and readers. The alleged plagiarism did not implicate those interests. Kuzma does not feel wronged because all she did was cite a textbook. Readers were not wronged because Gorsuch cited the actual source of the information he relies on. That’s why neither Oxford nor Kuzma has complained, and why Finnis (actually a far more influential philosopher than Taylor) has defended him. Now, feel free to blither on without me.

          • King Goat

            As was pointed out to you, and constitutionally ignored I guess, by Taylor early on, plagiarism doesn’t depend on whether the plagiarized party feels ‘wronged.’ What constitutes plagiarism is spelled out by Oxford and the academic community, and *copying nearly complete sentence after sentence after sentence with no attribution* falls under that spelling out.

            “and why Finnis (actually a far more influential philosopher than Taylor) has defended him. ”

            A rank appeal to authority fallacy.

          • Sean II

            Deflategate is far too overblown (ugh) to serve as an analogy here. The psi in a game ball actually matters.

            This is more like:

            When Tom Brady was playing junior varsity, he once went directly from shop class to practice, with a bit of resin left on his non-throwing hand.

            Technically, I guess, if one were a total dick with no sense of proportion, one could thus say he “cheated by violating the rule against stick-um”.

            But the only thing interesting about that, is figuring out why anyone would be unreasonable enough to say it.

          • James Taylor

            Finnis’ “defense” simply amounted to a false claim about what is “proper and accepted”. That’s hardly an impressive defense–and speaks extremely poorly of Finnis. As far as I know, I’m the first to note that parts of Gorsuch’s thesis (in addition to his book) have been plagiarized, and so it is not surprising that Oxford’s Faulty of Law have not *yet* addressed this.

            If you claim that theft must result in harm you have a *very* odd view of what theft is. Or do you believe that theft *must* harm and that the unlawful taking of property is thereby not theft unless it harms?

            And would you admit that Gorsuch violated Oxford’s rule–that he agreed to abide by–and plagiarized?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You seem to argue by conclusion. Finnis is wrong about what is proper and accepted, and you are correct. Is that your “argument”? If you’ve got some authoritative source that interprets plagiarism as you do, please cite it now. If you have evidence that Oxford interprets it your way, please adduce it. Otherwise, what you have is an opinion. If it comes down to opinions, I hope I am not being rude, but Finnis is a much more accomplished and influential philosopher than you are, so I am inclined to take his.

            I doubt such evidence exists, because any sensible rule against plagiarism will be designed, like rules against theft, to protect the public’s rights or legitimate interests. Otherwise it is a stupid rule, like a rule against competent adults buying marijuana. You have yet to, despite repeated invitations, identify what or whose interests your interpretation of plagiarism is intended to protect. The “victim” said that your rule is impractical and Gorsuch’s conduct innocuous, and the readers of Gorsuch were specifically referred to the source of his information. So, obviously I don’t admit that he violated Oxford’s rule. And, whether theft is always harmful, I don’t believe he committed it.

          • James Taylor

            Oxford’s policy is clearly stated here:

            https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford/university-policies/plagiarism?wssl=1

            Gorsuch used Kuzma’s words directly without attribution. That’s plagiarism. Again, Finnis’ claim about what is “proper and accepted” is straightforwardly wrong.

            Perhaps you’d like to ask Oxford why they have this stupid rule? It is, after all, theirs, not mine.

            And since you’ve now decided to appeal to (bad) authority, I’m invoking Munger’s Angry Squirrel rule!

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Sorry, but you should look up the definition of “begging the question.” The Oxford link says this: ‘Plagiarism’ is defined as the copying or paraphrasing of other people’s work or ideas into your own work without full acknowledgment.” Kuzma quoted a medical textbook and Gorsuch quoted the same. Kuzma has no work or ideas to quote or paraphrase without proper attribution. The only original intellectual content was from the textbook itself. So, your link establishes nothing.

            You want to say that Kuzma’s sampling of the textbook is itself intellectual content, but this not just arguable but dubious. Kuzma herself has explained that since this was a purely non-controversial, factual point, “it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language.” Repeat…”awkward and difficult” and serving no useful purpose because it’s an uncontroversial fact. I keep quoting her language, and you keep ignoring it. I have also said now more than once, that for all you know Kuzma was the tenth person to have quoted the textbook in just this fashion. Does Gorsuch have to search the entire written record to see who was the first to quote it this way? Does he need to cite everyone in history who quoted it?

            Finally, I notice that despite all your bluster you cite no authority to support your interpretation, including from Oxford itself. No doubt Oxford has this rule to discourage real plagiarism, not the imaginary kind. What you have is your opinion. You’re welcome to it, but to state unequivocally that anyone who doesn’t share it is acting unethically is just arrogant.

          • Sean II

            “You assume…that Kuzma’s sampling of the textbook is itself intellectual content…”

            As noted before, even a generous granting of Taylor’s premises still leaves us in the position of wondering, “Why would anyone actually get worked up over an infraction of this size?”

            The emotions on display here (we’ve heard shit like: “I see you care nothing about honesty or integrity, good day sir!”) are wildly out of proportion even if one mounts no contest to the definition creep.

            The most plausible answer is: these minor nobles get awfully touchy when it comes to defending the details of academic feudalism.

            Which makes a crazy kind of sense. You can’t pump something full of subsidies for so long without creating all kinds of rent-seeking distortions. You can’t grow something to many times its natural size without creating a New Class in the sense meant by Djilas.

            And of course, as that class pushes out to include people with less and less to contribute, one would expect to see rules and customs which tend in the direction of inflating minor contributions (if not indeed non-contributions) to the history of knowledge.

            On that analysis it wouldn’t be shocking if we reached a point where the simple act of excerpting a textbook in a certain context became itself a piece of intellectual property, to be guarded quite as furiously as the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.

            Whoever wrote them. 😉

          • King Goat

            “So he let some air out of the ball, who cares!”

          • King Goat

            Jesus Christ. Autism aside, it’s still amazing how you keep repeating your lines despite any facts brought into the conversation. Kuzma paraphrased information from three sources, not one (the textbook). Gorsuch copied largely ver batim her phrasing with no attribution. That’s plagiarism.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I and others have remarked previously that it is repulsive to use autism as a slur, yet you persist. It reflects on your character in a very negative way. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are right. Despite this disadvantage, I hold three graduate degrees from schools that everyone has heard of, and practiced law in the big leagues for two decades. After retirement, I wrote two books of political philosophy that were published by a respected academic press. Jan Narveson (heard of him, right?) recently praised the second one, Libertarian Philosophy in the Real World, as “generally excellent,” although he took issue with my treatment of abortion rights, http://libertarianpapers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/article/2016/09/lp-8-2-6-1.pdf. I have a reply forthcoming shortly.

            I am sure that you are not autistic, but nevertheless seem to spend all your time commenting on this and (I must presume) other sites. Yet, in all these comments there is not a single mention of any responsible employment positions held, books or papers published, or any other achievement of any sort. Notwithstanding this unblemished record of mediocrity, you display a vastly inflated sense of your own intelligence. I must assume you use a pseudonym to avoid embarrassment over your lack of success in, well, anything. There is also a medical term for this tragic, incurable, and lifelong condition; that would be “loser.”

          • King Goat

            I’m not using autism as a slur, but as a diagnosis for your amazing lack of context and general argumentive obtuseness. Yet another example of this can be found in you criticizing me for posting a lot here seemingly oblivious to how many posts you also have or being so unaware of Internet norms to seemingly be unfamiliar with the common practice of writing under ‘handles’ that you think this indicates something.

          • Sean II

            At a minimum James, you need to show what Oxford’s policy was back when Gorusch was there.

            A 2017 link is perfectly useless when it comes to the question at hand.

            And I suspect a bit of digging will reveal what I’ve been saying all along:

            …that the academic definition of plagiarism has expanded greatly over time.

            …that much of that expansion is recent and inspired by professors over-reacting to how the internet changed information traffic.

            …that plagiarism used to mean something closer to the common sense notion of “hey, you stole your homework!”

            …that it did NOT used to mean “with the help of a microscope we found a line or two (out of hundreds or thousands) that matched someone else’s exactly”.

          • King Goat

            “At a minimum James, you need to show what Oxford’s policy was back when Gorusch was there.”

            Because Finnis’ remark was obviously about the standards back then!

          • Lacunaria

            They can point it out, but what is the motive? If this degree of violation is normally accepted then the indictment is petty. Or is Oxford being hypocritical by ignoring this technical contract violation?

          • King Goat

            Part of Taylor’s point is that these violations do result in action quite a bit in his experience. Heck, I know of fellow former co-students who got flagged for plagiarism for using *one line* in an entire paper that was clearly lifted from someone else’s work.

            Is Oxford being hypocritical for not making much of the newly confirmed SCOTUS Justice and alumni’s plagiarism? Let me ask you, could there possibly be some motive other than consistency and academic norms about plagiarism that could be behind them not making much of this now very prestigious alumni’s rather obvious slip? Of course Taylor and others needn’t be guided by such motives.

          • Lacunaria

            What happened to your fellow student? Was this since computer searches?

            You stress flagging even a single line (sentence?), but no complete sentence was copied in Gorsuch’s case, just fragments. It looks like Gorsuch copied Kuzma’s facts of the case in his own voice with clarifications. Is there some point at which modifying someone else’s words about facts becomes your own words?

            Oxford certainly has motive for behaving hypocritically with a SCOTUS Justice, but that, like all of these questions, actually has a good quantified answer. Has Oxford ever done anything to any graduate for this degree of similarity?

          • James Taylor

            Well, as far as I know they’ve had less than a day to respond, since it seems that much of the attention has been focused on the book, and not the thesis–and only the latter is under their jurisdiction.

  • Theresa Klein

    Maybe I don’t fully understand the rigor of academic plagiarism standards, but it would never have occurred to me that you must not only cite a source, but also cite the source that led you to the source. If you go out and do research by reading papers and then reading the papers those papers cite, I would have thought it perfectly acceptable to quote each paper independently without actually citing how you found those papers. And it would never have occurred to me to call it “plagiarism”. To me “plagiarism” means straightforward lifting of text without attribution. Not failing to give credit to the source that led you to the paper you are quoting.

    • King Goat

      Theresa, he straight up lifted the phrasing Kuzma used in her article without citing her (he cited the sources she cited in her article). It’s the direct use of her phrasing without attribution that is the plagiarism here. You can see this in the Politico article which is the first link in Taylor’s main post.

      • Theresa Klein

        Ok, that makes more sense. Did he lift an entire sentence, or was it just the snippet of phrasing you quoted? (To me, copying only part of a sentence counts a “rephrasing”, not a straight lifting).

        • King Goat

          Theresa, I’d best characterize it as Gorsuch took about ten sentences where he changed a word or two in the sentences but kept the exact phrasing around the words. Again, the Politico link does an excellent job of laying out both text side by side so one can judge for themselves.

          • James Taylor

            The Politico link is here:

            http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/gorsuch-writings-supreme-court-236891

            They focus on the 2006 book; my focus was on the DPhil thesis that that book was based on, as I was curious to see if he’d been awarded a DPhil in part on the basis of plagiarized work. He had, and I’ve edited my original post so that interested persons can make the comparisons between Gorsuch’s words and Kuzma’s originals themselves.

        • James Taylor

          My apologies–in my response below I was attempting to reply to you! 🙂

      • Theresa Klein

        I see what you are saying. I’m not sure it’s as clear cut as that though. Seems like he was trying to cut down the length, which might get awkward in a direct attribution. Sometimes you get stuck between wanting to quote a whole excerpt, and wanting a shorter version of the excerpt, without including embarrassing words like ‘Mongolism’. So I can see how someone could end up with a section that’s like an “abridged version” of someone else’s text, and it’s not clear what to do in that situation. You don’t really want to put quote marks around the whole thing with breaks and square brackets around all the sections you modified because that will look like shit and be hard to read.

        • King Goat

          There’s an easy solution to that. If you’re going to borrow a twenty word sentence with the exact phrasing save for one embarrassing term, use ellipses and quotation marks. But Gorsuch *didnt even cite Kuzma at all throughout that page long extensive borrowing of her near exact phrasing-much less use quotation marks. He clearly used her account in writing his own-that’s exactly when you’re supposed to cite.

          • Theresa Klein

            Yeah, he should definitely have cited her, at least. I’m just saying that all the ellipses and quotes would make the text really ugly, so I can understand why one might want to avoid doing that. And yet also not want to have to come up with an alternate phrasing for every single sentance. It’s just a tricky writing situation to deal with. I can’t really fault him for not wanting a butt ugly section full of brackets and elipses. But yes, he should definitely have cited her.

          • King Goat

            I see your point, but at the least, you’ve got to cite someone whose work you so clearly used.

    • James Taylor

      yYou should cite the secondary source as well if that’s from where the primary source quote is drawn–not doing so also counts as a violation of Academic Integrity. (The idea is essentially (1) by not citing that you’re free-riding on someone else’s sourcing of material, and (2) by citing you’re indicating that you’re not drawing directly on the original source.) If you *do* read the original source and then cite directly that’s fine–but that doesn’t seem to be what Gorsuch did given the direct unattributed quotation.

  • James, your post is somewhat unclear. You said:

    “On p.467 Gorsuch directly quotes Kuzma, and then cites the sources that she cites as the source of the view that he’s outlining, but without citing Kuzma.”

    He quotes Kuzma but doesn’t cite Kuzma? What does that mean? That he wrapped the passage in quotes, but then cited someone else? Could that just have been an error? I don’t follow your reasoning about him deliberately obscuring the intellectual debt. It would help if you provided more information, like the actual passage, as formatted or punctuated by Gorsuch.

    I looked at page 467 and there are no quotes in it. Is that the right page? This goes back to the ambiguity of your statement – I’m not quite sure what it means to quote someone but not cite them. Since you don’t mention the sources he did cite, I can’t find the passage.

    • James Taylor

      Thanks for your question! I’ve clarified things by editing my original post.

  • j_m_h

    Sometimes I wonder if the issue of plagiarism in academia isn’t quite similar to the excessive patent and IP protections that are in place.