When we have an idea or insight, rarely is it the first time it has ever occurred to an individual. Furthermore, what we learn through formal education, dialogue, and reading (for those who pay attention) becomes an integral part of our thought--we assimilate the ideas of others. Thus, what we may think and say is not necessarily of our own origin, but rather it is a conglomeration of the ideas of others in conjunction with our own native thoughts and understanding--such is human nature. However, there is a fundamental difference between this assimilation of idea and thought through socialization/education versus plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined, as the knowing act of stealing another's ideas and passing those ideas on as your own with the intent to deceive. It is theft of intellectual property which is owned and has value. Plagiarism is to steal and lie while assimilation is the process of educating the mind to gain knowledge from a vast variety of sources. Even though there is significant difference between the legal and moral dealings of plagiarism, there is overlap between the is and ought. Socrates and Confucius, we have read, would agree that assimilation is necessary for education and for being moral, but, as I will show, consider that plagiarism is immoral.
To understand Socrates view on plagiarism, we must first understand the basis for what he considers moral. Morality, Socrates believes, is that which induces happiness and is in our best, long-term interest and that to live unpleasantly is immoral or evil (Plato 1956, pg.56). Furthermore, Socrates believes that we only are immoral out of ignorance for what is in our long-term best interest. Hence, immorality is due to a lack of knowledge. Thus, while we may get pleasure (pleasure = good [Plato 1956, pg. 56]) in overindulging in food and drink, we will later pay for it in the form of displeasure (displeasure/pain = equal to evil [Plato 1956, pg. 56]) in the form of nausea, heartburn, obesity and a hangover. But we only overindulge because we are ignorant of what would be better for ourselves in the long run, i.e. moderation in food and drink. Thus, Socrates concludes that what causes pain is evil and what causes pleasure is good; we call pleasure evil if it robs us of greater pleasures than it gives, or causes pains greater than the pleasure, and we can call pain good if it prevents further pain or gives pleasures greater than pain (Plato 1956, pg. 60). Socrates finishes by saying, "the salvation of human life has been found to consist in the right choice of pleasures and pains, in the choice of the more and the fewer (i.e. choosing long term happiness over instant gratification).
Now, we can consider the case of plagiarism from Socrates' point of view. Plagiarism (as was previously said), is the knowing act of stealing an idea and passing it off as one's own. Let us now look at why an individual plagiarizes in an academic setting. An individual plagiarizes,...