8.12.2009

Is Your Thought ORIGINAL?

Having to write tons, yes TONS, of papers for my master's degree, I was always cognizant of plagiarism. This concept has intrigued me. My advisor said "if you change a word or two in a sentence, you won't be plagiarizing." I think that is a funny thing. Take a look at a journal article and look at the LONG list of references. All we really do is simply copy one another but say it with a different list of vocabulary words.

This made me think...does anyone have completely original thought anymore? Unlikely. Occasionally people say things that bring forth new ways of looking at things (i.e. Gawande, Gladwell), but even that is rare.

I am under the persuasion that for the most part everything that needs to be said has already been said. Great speeches/talks are really just a reworking and re-wording of already established thought.

Agree? or Disagree?

7 comments:

LGH said...

Well, that's a pretty sad commentary, then. But, I think you are probably right. Not very many original thoughts, and same mistakes made over and over by generations; such as war.

Sobering thoughts.

LoriPhdinme said...

I can see your point but I must disagree. Every human spirit that comes here is as unique as a snowflake. The very essence of one's experience shapes perception, process and thereby thought. Because some experiences or collections of experiences are similar or shared, the thoughts might be recognized by one as unoriginal because the echo the similarity of another's thought. A thought, a snowflake, a finger print are the same thing but still possess that individuality. If thoughts are redundant, repetitive or the same, perhaps it is because one has a lesson yet to learn by undergoing the experience for self. How can you make someone experience the taste of a ripe pear? Can mere words or thought provide the full experience? The thought, the experience, the lesson are a marriage of originality and being. The original experience of Jennie's pear and Lori's pair are indeed a separate and unique experience because their is ownership in the perception. Let's look at that in the lexicon arena. Is a word not original if both you and I utilize it? Print an innocuous word on a piece of paper in non-descript print...."field" for example. Let's utilize it in a similarly mundane sentence..."I planted the field today". What does the word "field" conjure up in your visualization? What did you plant in the field? What were the soil or weather conditions? Were you feeling laden down or did you have a sense of accomplishment at the utterance of that statement?
If I were to plagiarize something without thought even if I changed a word or two to justify the meter or verbiage, then yes, that would truly be unoriginal thought. But, if you and I both immediately think of Jimmie John's pickles when someone mentions a deli sandwich for lunch, is that unoriginal thought even if we have eaten that same type of pickle for every meal for a month. I say no. I can speak only for myself when I state that creative, original thinking is a stretch. Is that true or merely my perception? If you are asking me, I might say, oh, I am ordinary in my thoughts, manner and speech. You, on the other hand, would say. Oh, no! "I revel in your brilliance". So then, which one of us is original in our thought? Which of us is right? Thought is original, perception may be redundant, repetitive and just plain boring.
There is my VERY long, unoriginal, blog response du jour.
Swim well my wise fish friend and have a nice day.

Nat said...

Jen, I think you hit it right on the money. I do think that there are people out there who are extremely talented at giving an old thought new life. A trait I admire. I love it when I have an "AHA" moment --usually when a thought has been presented to me (something that I have always known) but it is done in such a way that it is new to me.

jen said...

Lori, I would like to respond to your thoughtful and great response. First of all, you should know that of all the people I know, you are one of the most original thinkers (and so is your brother). So this concept should raise your ire.

I totally agree with what u say. Of course there are original novels and creative stories and poetry written. Look at Harry Potter. There was nothing like it when he flew like a firebolt onto the scene. And the description of one's experiences /perceptions is of course unique. That is the only way communication exists or is interesting because we all bring a different reality to the table.

In my mind there is a distinction btw communication and knowledge. I am talking about knowledge on a much broader scale. Not knowledge in the scientific arena, however. There are new discoveries happening all the time. I am talking about philosophical knowledge...concepts of justice, love, hope, freedom, forgiveness, etc. These are not new. And very rarely will we develop a new core value. Someone came up with the idea of benificence. But that is simply a vocabulary word to describe a concept old as time: that of helping one another.

Well, that is enough for now. You keep blastin' off yer ideas to me Annie O. You hit the bulls eye. Hope you have a sharp shootin' day.

Mrs. Olsen said...

To some degree I think you are right. But I remember having thoughts as a kid that nobody had ever said or spoke to me. Like: I remember sitting in our van on looooong summer roadtrips and being amazed that I could sit in something that smoothly glided along freeways and took me all the way to my cousins house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wondered if "America" was centered on homes (and thousands and thousands of miles of pavement that could take me so many miles) or if it was centered on cars, and all the whizzing around they can do. Not very profound or anything...but original thought happens...particularly in the young. That's why it's amazing to watch them discover new things and figure things out for the first time.

Otherwise, it's a re-hash and like Nat said, putting things in a new light. Perhaps more vital than original thought is our ability to retain more and more knowledge all the while being able to sort it all out in meaningful patterns in our lives.

Ten-four.

jen said...

Mrs. Olsen,
Thanks for your comments. I love to hear what others have to say. And you are one of the most creative!!

I understand what you are saying about having a thought completely independent of anything or anyone. Of course we all have the ability to come up with stuff on our own. But I bet that somewhere else in the world, someone has had that same thought about the world being centered on cars. So while your thought was original in your sphere, it was not unique or one of a kind. (Maybe just a debate of semantics.)

I loved what you said at the end about our ability to retain and sift through the incredible amounts of information and knowledge and making meaning out of them! Great thought!! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

jen said...

By the way, I DO believe in revelation. And that God still provides men with original thought. I just think it is rare.

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