Plagiarism, Technology, and the Dead-End of the Humanities

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack newsletter, The Hinternet:

My friend Agnes Callard stirred up some mischief a while back by writing at least somewhat sympathetically of the deeds of plagiarists, including her own past self in elementary school. “Academia,” she observed, “has confused a convention with a moral rule, and this confusion is not unmotivated.”

In order to count as plagiarism, I take it, a piece of written work must be falsely presented as if written by its presenter, when in fact it was written by someone else. So defined, I suppose I am in most circumstances “opposed to plagiarism,” roughly in the same degree and with the same intensity as Agnes. Though much like her as well, rather than simply taking a stand on the issue —as if that’s what an intellectual were supposed to do—, I am much more interested in figuring out the historical and technological circumstances in which this gesture came to be something like the literary and academic equivalent of murder, the absolute unspeakable act that can only eventuate in total exclusion from the ecumene, this even at a time when information-processing technologies are, like it or not, largely obviating the need for a well-rounded, generally competent person to develop the skill of long-form textual composition at all.

More here.