Stanley Fish Essay Sample

Summary / Response: Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish is a professor of humanities and law at Florida International University and a writer for the New York Times. In two articles, written in consecutive weeks, entitled Plagiarism is Not a Big Moral Deal and The Ontology of Plagiarism: Part 2 he highlights the importance of plagiarism.

He begins Plagiarism is Not A Big Moral Deal with an anecdote about an experience he had with a co-director at the college where he was a dean, in which he was the victim of plagiarism. He noticed that there was a section in a book to which director had the authorship, which closely resembled Fish’s prior work. He then compares the subject matter to golf, drawing a similarity between the intricate and complex rules of both as well the general public’s understanding and misunderstanding of both playing fields.

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Fish understands how the world may feel like outsiders looking into a game of complicated rules that seem irrelevant, with professionals such as journalists, scientists and historians being represented by golf players. Throughout the article, Fish challenges readers to identify the concept of originality. He covers the possible philosophical argument that there is no such thing as originality but quickly minimizes this point and concludes by reminding the readers that plagiarism is a disciplinary practice that should stand strong regardless of the world’s understanding of it.

In the article’s sequel, The Ontology of Plagiarism: Part Two, Fish clears up his point by stressing that plagiarism is a big deal, a big detriment to professionalism, even though it is not as big a detriment to moral behavior. Fish takes this stance because he believes that teaching students the intricacies of academic writing should be done with a professional approach, and not one that preaches character, as it is a matter of maximizing the opportunity of learning and not anything else.

Fish has made a valid and undeniable point with his two articles, which is that plagiarism should be approached as an issue affecting both its perpetrator and its victim. In fact, his articles may help a student understand that being the perpetrator in the crime that is plagiarism, one makes himself or herself into a victim as well. In this judgment, Fish accepts that students may worry more about their professional development than their moral development. After mentioning Plato and Aristotle in his first article and deliberating his stance as a protector and teacher of professionalism and not character in the second, Fish opens up the floodgates for a lot of debate and discussion of an age-old argument. For in Plato’s philosophy, a rhetorician or a teacher is not merely responsible for the content that he discusses, but also the moral implications of how the audience accepts and utilizes the information they receive. It may be unfair but it is not unwarranted to place the claim that Fish’s first article was inspired by a personal experience that rubbed him the wrong way.

Nevertheless, he presents an option for academics and professors to use in their quests to teach students both academic content and the value of learning, in a manner that may be more effective than trying to tackle content, the value of learning, and moral enlightenment in one shot.

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