Re: Question 24 Challenged

From: Harnad, Stevan (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 14:14:52 BST

> From: Cherry, Sandra <>
> Question 24 Why is linguistic theft a victimless crime? I thought it
> was b because if you copy someone else's answers, the person doesn't
> lose anything. Although this could be termed as cheating, you are not
> taking anything away from the person (you are only cheating yourself-
> for the record this is not something that I do!) Surely this is like
> going to a lecture and making notes from what you have been told as
> opposed to sitting elsewhere and struggling to read Green all by
> yourself which would be "honest toil" Sandra

    (24) Why is "linguistic theft" a victimless crime?
    a. because people can steal your words but not your ideas
    b. because if you copy someone else's answers, that person doesn't lose
    c. because you only need to say as much as you want to
    d. a and c
    e. ***none of the above

Again, you have clearly learned exactly what you needed to learn here,
so I will code the reply algorithm to accept either b or e as a correct
reply. In fact, I will recode all the ambiguous questions so that the
ambiguous alternative are marked as correct.

Here was the background information from my lecture on Chapter 9:

    If you had to eat mushrooms to survive because there was nothing
    else to eat, nibbling a little and waiting to see whether or not
    you got sick would definitely be the hard way of getting your
    knowledge about mushrooms. Let's call that way of getting your
    knowledge -- by trial and error experience, guided by feedback from
    the consequences of what you do -- "honest toil."

    Language makes it possible for you to get the same information by a
    kind of "theft": If someone who knows the features of the edible
    and poisonous mushrooms describes them to you in words, then you
    have saved yourself a lot of toil. Nor would the speaker lose
    anything for having taught you the features -- unless of course
    mushrooms were scarce.

    But in general, when the information you are given through language
    is not about scarce resources for which the speaker and hearer are
    competing, linguistic "theft" is a victimless crime. It's more like
    barter, in which I tell you the things I know and you don't, and
    vice-versa. But it's all about minimising unnecessary toil.

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