Homo Mimesis and Plagiarism
Reza A.A Wattimena
Plagiarism in research and education are still a big problem in Indonesia. What happened with the professor from one of the well known universities in Indonesia a few months ago is only the top of big ice mountain of problems. However, until now, there is no deep and comprehensive analysis concerning the essence of plagiarism itself. The respectable professors from various universities in Indonesia are still playing as naïve moralists who see plagiarism merely as an intellectual crime. It’s such a cliché. Everybody knows that.
Of course, without further analysis, plagiarism is a crime. However, there are deeper factors in the plagiarism which rooted in the essence of men itself. Without playing as naïve moralist, it is more constructive for us to understand the anthropological assumptions of plagiarism. With this type of analysis, we can understand more about the struggle that happens inside the mind of people who does plagiarism. We need to avoid any judgmental and moralist type of analysis. We all human and human make mistakes. We are not angel.
Human is a multidimensional creature. One of the dimensions that rooted inside human is the will to imitate, or mimesis. Mimesis is every action that intentionally imitates a certain object. In my opinion, mimesis, or the will to imitate, is the foundation of plagiarism.
The philosophical background of mimesis stretches back to the early Greek philosophers. Plato argued back then that is the will of men to imitate nature. Every painters and poets use this internal power to creatively create their own works. Nature is the object of the works of painters and poets. The naughty question is, are they, the poets and painters, a plagiarist? They don’t write any footnotes, or any notes at all, in their works.
Plato’s student, Aristotle, agreed with the thought of his master. Aristotle argued that art is the mimesis of nature. Art on the one side is the representation of nature, and on the other side also the symbol of men’s intention to see the nature according to their own imagination. In other words, men tend to add something in their own imagination to understand and describe nature.
Aristotle also emphasized that men is imitating creature, or homo mimesis. Imitating is an internal driving force that pushes men to create their own image of nature in form of artistic action.
There is one wisdom quote that exist in our society, namely the people learn first of all by imitate. With imitating, people are helped to create their own thinking and opinion concerning the world. Men live and develop by imitating. We walk, think, write, and speak by first of all imitate every person around us.
The naughty question stands still, if we walk and forget to give reference of our source, are we a plagiarist?
Mimesis and Plagiarism
I want to emphasize once again that I’m against plagiarism. To take ideas or works by someone else without proper reference of course is a crime. However, we have to see the other side of plagiarism, namely the human condition of this action. Essentially speaking, human is homo mimesis, namely the creature who imitates everything in their life.
Considering this fact, the law and society have to stop judge it merely by cliché morality, and stop taking role as shallow moralist. Plagiarism is an action which based on the homo mimesis dimension of human nature. An act of quoting will not be called plagiarism, if he/she writes a proper reference.
What is needed is the ability to give detail and accurate reference. There are other sides of the problems. Many students in Indonesia do not know how to quote or give proper academic references! Teachers and professors do not explain the art of quoting and give reference to them! Of course, we need to treat this kind of cases differently and compassionately.
All I want to say is this: don’t judge people as plagiarist recklessly. The ability to distinguish plagiarist stigma, between the real plagiarist and the victim of demagogy, is a part of academic wisdom these days. The presumption of innocence has to be hold dearly, until it proved otherwise.
Society and the entire professors from the various universities in Indonesia have to stop becoming academic judges. They all have to consider on simple fact that we all learn by imitating, and some times, those act of imitating do not have reference at all! We need as wisdom to see the problems clearly and not the overwhelming emotions to take role as character killer.