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Philosophy Professor’s Critique Receives National Attention

Associate Professor of Philosophy Mark Anderson has received national media attention this academic year for his discovery of an author’s misappropriated material.

Last spring, Anderson said he was comparing two books on Friedrich Nietzsche while researching for a lecture on the philosopher for his undergraduate course on Plato, Andrew Melville and Nietzsche. He read Curtis Cate’s Friedrich Nietzsche and Julian Young’s Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography concurrently, alternating chapters between the two books. It was then that Anderson said he noticed that Young appeared to borrow material from Cate’s text without quotation or proper attribution. He published the article “Telling the Same Story of Nietzsche’s Life” in The Journal of Nietzsche Studies in August 2011.

“I suspected [my article] would have impact because it is an important field of study, and [Young’s Friedrich Nietzsche] was a widely received publication coming from Cambridge, an important press,” Anderson said. His article was picked up by NewAPPS, a prominent art, politics, philosophy and science blog. The Chronicle of Higher Education published the article “When One Biographer ‘Borrows’ From Another, the Dispute Gets Philosophical” on July 2, and this week the same author wrote a Wall Street Journal blog post on Anderson’s findings.

“All of us here in the department have been following this discussion for several months. Mark is an internationally recognized scholar on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and his work in this area is highly respected,” said Philosophy Department Chair Ronnie Littlejohn. “As you can see in [The Chronicle of Higher Education], even philosophers such as Ray Monk, who is the world’s leading biographer of Wittgenstein and Russell, two other great philosophers, has heralded Mark’s analysis and lined up to support his work.  We are very fortunate to have a scholar of Mark’s capabilities at Belmont.”

Earlier this month Young reached out to Anderson and asked the professor to let the author know what other passages in his biography mirrored Cate’s book.

“He doesn’t deny it,” Anderson said. “He said he was sloppy and forgot that those notes were from the other book. He even tried to give other explanations of what happened.”

He spoke to his class about the use of “misappropriated materials” and has sent article links to the students that showed interest. Moving forward, Anderson said he advises students and aspiring authors to tread lightly when researching and writing.

“If it’s plagiarism, just don’t plagiarize. If it’s sloppiness or not just knowing how to write a biography, write the kind of works that you are capable of writing. Keep track of your notes and make sure everything you write is connected to a source.”