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Passage Discussion


This explanation is still in progress. Please post any questions below!
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I had a lot of difficulty with this passage and still am. I will give you my run down about what I took from the passages/how they relate and if I could get some input/help that would be great.

Passage A
P1: introduce the work of Laura Rosenthal and general VP/approach regarding plagiarism
P2: author makes a criticism against her work, specifically that Rosenthal neglects all moral considerations with respect to plagiarism focusing instead on other issues.
P3: author explains the implication of Rosenthal’s failure to discuss the moral considerations of plagiarism which she feels was very unfortunate.

MP: The main point is that the extirpation of moral considerations from political histories such as this one (Rosenthal’s history of plagiarism) is a sad loss to political history.
VP: Author and Rosenthal (who’s VP the author gives us)
Tone: critical, upset about the approach of neglecting moral consideration

Passage B
P1: offer a little introduction about the idea of plagiarism and how people’s judgements/application of the term can differ depending on societal/generational shifts.
P2: outline Christopher Ricks POV, who is critical of the approach of discussing the history of plagiarism from a modern perspective (without attention to morality/that it’s immoral). Ricks argues it is producing regrettably lenient judgements about plagiarism. (I have no idea what the last sentence “BUT there are historical approaches, and there are historical approaches.” I saw the BUT which made me think the author was qualifying/against something but I didn’t know what)
P3: Concede 2 arguments that Ricks was rightly critical about; 1. postmodern reduction of moral standards and 2. Some shoddy scholarship of inappropriately applying modern ideologies to historical issues. YET, (again while I can see the author is changing direction and is now going to offer some disagreement/criticism to Ricks I’m not really sure what he’s saying or how it relates to Ricks... this was the part where I stopped and felt I really didn’t know what was going on and questioned if I am misunderstanding both passages). He’s saying something about not necessarily proving past attitudes but rather just being aware that attitudes change?

MP: I start to really feel the authors point of view/MP in the last paragraph when he says “Yet bad history is no argument against history itself.” I’m not really sure what it is but I would say something like it while using modern day views to discuss issues, such as plagiarism, historically is not always appropriate, it’s still not a totally worthless approach for its a way to show that attitudes change?
Tone: reasoned, qualified disagreement- less critical than the author of passage A was, but offers some criticism to A.
VP: Authors and Ricks (who the author outlines for us).

My analysis was that both passage A and B are talking about the same topic- how plagiarism is understood historically. Passage A is more passionate and upset about failing to discuss the morality of plagiarism historically (“demeans”/“degrades” moral thought), whereas passage B doesn’t appear to be as critical. They would agree on as aforementioned, the first 2 facts stated in the beginning of the last paragraph of B where the author says Ricks is “rightly dismissive”.

Besides that I don’t really know what else there is. I apologize if this is wrong or totally incomprehensible. I appreciate all the feedback I can get.
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I too struggled quite a bit with this passage. I have re-read it a few times and tried to go through the questions and I continue to switch my answers and get most incorrect. I also found the quote from Passage B, " But there are historical approaches, and there are historical approaches" to be confusing. I feel like I am definitely missing something important in that statement.
 Jeremy Press
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Hi Ken and Ari,

Ken, I think you've done an excellent job of summing up Passage A, including capturing the right main point and the two different viewpoints present in the passage. Remember (and this becomes crucial when analyzing Passage B, and when answering certain questions) that the headline introduction to these passages tells us that Passage A was from an essay by historian Christopher Ricks. So the author viewpoint in Passage A is the viewpoint specifically of Christopher Ricks.

Ken and Ari, I think you're both quite understandably confused about the contribution of Kewes, the author of Passage B. That's because Kewes is trying to stake out a middle ground between two extremes. Staking out a middle ground often involves coming up with a subtle main point/conclusion, a point that (in a short excerpt like this) isn't going to be as fleshed out as you'd like it to be. What are the two extremes Kewes wants to avoid? First (as you've both noticed in the beginning of the last paragraph), the author wants to avoid an extreme approach that ignores any moral considerations when it comes to plagiarism. Christopher Ricks criticized such an extreme in Passage A, and Kewes agrees that it would be bad to give in to "the postmodern reduction of moral standards to expressions of power." But Kewes also thinks that Christopher Ricks represents a second extreme position to be avoided. We shouldn't just discard a "historical" mindset, a mindset that recognizes that things change and that therefore our own understandings of plagiarism might be different (in important ways) from the ideas people had about plagiarism in the past. In other words, there's not one single universal/moral concept of plagiarism that applies for all time. In that respect, Kewes doesn't want us to go to the extreme of Ricks and discard a historical approach to plagiarism altogether. What is the middle ground thesis that Kewes argues for? That's in the last two sentences of the passage: Let's not get rid of moral considerations altogether (i.e. doing history, and paying attention to different viewpoints of history on plagiarism, "is not necessarily to vindicate" those viewpoints, meaning we still pay attention to the morality of plagiarism). But let's also acknowledge there's not one universal moral approach that applies for all times and places (i.e. "whatever we might think is the correct way of apprehending plagiarism—and there is hardly a consensus on the matter even today—our predecessors may not, and often did not, share our perspectives").

A quick aside on the meaning of the last sentence of paragraph two of Passage B ("But there are historical approaches, and there are historical approaches."). If you let the last paragraph guide you, what the author seems to be saying is that there are bad historical approaches (which are discussed in the first two sentences of the last paragraph) and there are good historical approaches (the approach Kewes recommends in the last two sentences of the passage).

Let me know if that helps clear things up!

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