A Refutation of 'Similar Language' Charges

Because of legal implications and Smith's threats, I will not comment in a public forum beyond this posting, nor will I respond to personal inquiries -- though I thank everyone sincerely for their notes of support. My attorney will be writing a statement on the absolute legal validity of my authorship claim to The Reasonable Woman: A Guide to Intellectual Survival, showing that plagiarism accusations are libelous. He is also preparing a legal analysis of the false and libelous claim that I was merely a typist on the co-authored book (The Fundamentals of Reasoning). A copy of the co-authorship agreement will be attached thereto (currently available at http://www.zetetics.com/reason/contract.gif). The contract has been acknowledged publicly as valid by George H. Smith (see http://www.zetetics.com/reason/libel.htm).

A refutation of the accusations of immorality (plagiarism) that are based on the 'similarity of language' issue follows. I have delayed responding in order to attach the above-mentioned legal analysis, but it is time to speak. The legal analysis will be posted at http://www.zetetics.com/reason/libel.htm. Meanwhile, I ask people to read The Reasonable Woman to understand what a personal book it is and how meticulously I credit my sources. Please note my very prominent acknowledgement of Smith in two places, including the first page of the book 'The Acknowledgements'.

*A Refutation of charges of immorality based on the 'similar language' issue.*

The following analysis is based on the only information I have received from George H. Smith on the 'similar language' issue: three emails of accusation received respectively on May 17, May 19, and May 20. (As only one was sent directly to me -- the other two being forwarded -- I do not know when other people received the messages.) The Reasonable Woman [TRW] is 305 pages long. The email claim of plagiarism rests upon passages quoted from 17 pages, with at least one quotation being no more than five words in length and many of them including ellipses meant to heighten parallels. There are 116 sentences under question.

85 sentences come from private unpublished material -- the "hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents" (see the aforementioned web page) -- that Smith seems unwilling to produce for examination. This leaves 31 sentences in a 305 page book for which any evidence of impropriety has been provided. Ordinarily, I would not respond to unsupported accusations from an ex-lover, but I feel obliged to answer the reasonable questions of people who are confused by this personal dispute that Smith is conducting in the public realm.

The accusations fall into three broad categories...

1. 85 sentences absolutely unsupported by repeatedly requested evidence;
2. 21 sentences from what Smith calls "a 1974 course handout"; and,
3. 10 sentences from Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies.

#1. 85 sentences that are absolutely unsupported by requested evidence;

(Many of the paralleled sentences have virtually no connection to each other besides similarity of ideas, but I will answer this aspect of the situation in point #3.)

I will assume for the moment that the unproduced material a) exists and b) is the co-authored manuscript in question ("Fundamentals of Reasoning"). I explain the similar language issue in three ways.

a. For those who have a copy of TRW, lease refer to pages 147-150 in TRW where I describe the Intellectual Diary that was *required* to be kept by everyone who attended the 8-week long classes, which George and I developed and refined together over our ten years of co-habitation -- classes from which both of us have continued to use material in our independent work since our separation in 1985. For those without a copy of TRW, let me summarize what the intellectual diary was: a key aspect of the classes was for each member to keep a personal record of the intellectual processes and ideas sparked by the course, which attempted something akin to intellectual therapy. Diary entries consumed at least fifteen minutes every day and it was the sole product and property of the member who wrote it, just as an ordinary diary would be. Each class began with members reporting on their diaries and publicly explaining why they had missed making an entry, if such was the case. Missing a day literally meant paying a fee, which was the penalty. (This process is described in Chapter 8 of TRW.)

As mentioned in TRW, I attended five eight-week courses, which means I maintained the required diary for about ten months in all, although the timing was not consecutive and I quite often missed a day or two. Since the purpose in attending was to assist in producing the course by providing feedback and ideas, my diary focused on the content in the classes that I wanted to explore (e.g. asking 'what is a better analogy to illustrate this point in a future class'?) and other thoughts provoked. When I wiped my hard drive clean of the co-authored Fundamentals of Reasoning and returned all co-authored material to Smith (please see http://www.zetetics.com/reason/libel.htm for history of this event), I did not send my private diaries which were and are my personal property. I used them as source material in writing sections of both the Fundamentals of Reasoning and TRW, and I felt perfectly free to quote myself in both.

For example, the sentences on Freudianism and Popper account for 41 of the 85 quoted sentences. On page 40 of TRW, I explain how I was once a committed Freudian who discarded that system of thought solely because of Popper's influence. Indeed, Popper's arguments caused me to abandon a keen interest in psychology itself and to become, instead, a cynic on the subject. Those sections are directly gleaned from my diary.

b. Smith and I lived and worked together intimately for ten years, constantly discussing both the classes and other intellectual partnerships, such as the audio tapes we co-authored for Knowledge Products (as credited on those tapes' boxes). We went over each other's material constantly, providing feedback and editing. Under the circumstances, it would be amazing if there were not occasional and marked similarities in how we each present material from that period in our lives.

c. During those years, we read many of the same books, and much of the similar language comes directly from secondary sources. For example, when Smith points out a similarity between his words "Write it down" (in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies) and my words "Put it in writing" in TRW, he neglects to mention that I footnote Alan Lakein's book "How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life" which has a section called Put It In Writing. When Smith points out that both he and I use the words "Precisely what do we not have?", he neglects to point out that this exact phrase comes from "Thinking Straight" by Antony Flew, whom I recommend in accompanying text in TRW. Much of the wording and ideas used throughout the class, in its handouts, and in the co-authored manuscript were directly derived from the language and ideas of thinkers such as Brand Blanshard, Mortimer Adler, and especially Henry Hazlitt. The intellectual therapy techniques derive directly from Nathaniel Branden and Albert Ellis. TRW carefully and extensively acknowledges all these contributions.

#2. 21 sentences from what George calls "a 1974 Course Handout"

It is Prometheus' attorney's opinion that, as a legal matter, this 5-page 1974 hand-out -- the only evidence Smith has produced of plagiarism to my publisher (and not to me) -- was knowingly placed into the public domain by him by virtue of being widely distributed without a copyright notice or registration. As a moral matter, I know Smith wanted the material to be used as widely as possible to promote the course: that is why he handed it out over freely for years and years. Since he had given permission for the man-in-the-street to use the handout, I do not see where a moral problem exists. Especially since I prominently acknowledge him in TRW.

Nevertheless, just as I assume for the sake of argument that the unproduced manuscript exists, let me forget for the moment the public domain matter. I have not seen the document in question, but Smith and I definitely did have hand-outs, some predating our relationship, some co-authored. I was responsible for typing, re-typing and proofing this material for all the classes we held. Smith also incorporated much of the hand-out language verbatim into classes, which I heard repeatedly. Moreover, I edited the co-authored manuscript, as noted in the co-authorship contract (http://www.zetetics.com/contract.gif), so I went over these lines again and again with care. Smith quotes 13 of the 21 sentences that are extremely close to his wording: the remainder are similar ideas (we discussed and developed together) expressed in different terms. I may have inadvertently used 13 similar sentences that were recorded in my intellectual diary or indelibly imprinted in my mind.

#3. 10 sentences from Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies [AAR&OH]

I have not read this book. If it is, as I understand, largely drawn from essays previously published, I may well have read sections of AAR&OH. Indeed, some of the essays may have been written during the ten-year cohabitation. From the extremely brief passages quoted, it seems clear to me that Smith has drawn upon the co-created material and, perhaps, upon the co-authored manuscript itself -- both of which predate AAR&OH. Indeed, he continues to use the co-authored ideas from Fundamentals of Reasoning by giving classes without acknowledging my contribution or paying me a part of the tuition fee. It is his legal right to do so and I have never raised an objection.

Moreover, the snippets he offers from AAR&OH represent standard psychotherapy advice that is expressed in dozens of self-help books, often in an *extremely* similar manner. How many ways can you say, 'write it down'?

For those interested in the 'altered document' -- An Open Letter to Prometheus in which Smith publicly admitted to having purposefully lied about my being only a typist on a book I co-authored, a document which was altered in later postings to omit this clearly libelous admission, it too can be found at the aforementioned web page.

For those interested in the legal analysis, it is yet to be completed and posted. Please be patient. I am posting before I had intended because too many people consider silence to an admission of guilt.