Journal of Academic Ethics

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 61–69 | Cite as

Principled Autonomy and Plagiarism

  • Melinda Rosenberg


Every semester, professors in every discipline are burdened with the task of checking for plagiarized papers. Since plagiarism has become rampant in the university, it can be argued that devoting time to checking for plagiarism is nothing more than a fool’s errand. Students will continue to plagiarize regardless of the consequences. In this paper, I will argue that professors do have a categorically binding obligation to confirm whether papers have been plagiarized. I will use Onora O'Neill’s account of “principled autonomy” as the foundation for my argument. Moral agents can only act on principles that can be adopted by all. Dishonesty cannot be adopted since honesty would cease to exist. Furthermore, failing to check for plagiarized papers is a failure to treat all students and professors and ends-in-themselves.


Plagiarism Academic integrity Deontological ethics Obligation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionThe University of North Carolina at PembrokePembrokeUSA

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