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Too many papers essentially repackage the same ideas. I think this is okay for handbook chapters, but otherwise a paper should do something new. It's fine to build on your previously idea or connect it to something else, and to do that you need to set it out. I don't think there's a metric. If you spent 70% of the paper on old idea, and then connected it to something unexpected, that might be okay. It depends on how trivial the new stuff is.

Bill Vanderburgh

I think there may be a difference based on venue. Some journals (e.g., Hume Studies) give blanket permission for authors to reprint some/all of their own work in books provided that the journal is mentioned as first place of publication. Others require you to ask permission and routinely give it; others may not grant permission. But that's for verbatim copying. If you are just discussing the same ideas in a new piece and are avoiding "self-plagiarism" I don't think there are any legal/contractual restrictions. (Though I am prepared to be corrected.)

By the way, going the other direction, re-using substantial material from your own previously published book in a new article, may be frowned upon by both publishers--the book publisher because they do not want to allow people access to the info without paying, the journal because they don't want to repeat what is already printed elsewhere.

But as Neil and Marcus imply, there is a difference between what is allowable and what is good practice. It is a gray area, so use your best judgement. It is true that sometimes you need to summarize a previous argument in order to get to the next related idea, and I think that is perfectly fine. But simply giving the same argument again in new words is probably not great. I had a professor who seemed to do this all the time, so it isn't forbidden. But I think junior scholars need to worry that tenure committees and external evaluators may say that the record is not sufficient if it is mostly duplication.

When you do reuse material, verbatim or in spirit, be sure to avoid potential accusations of dishonesty by being clear about how much previous material you are reusing and from what places.


I will say that the over-reuse of material by some bigger name philosophers has made me less likely to read their work. I only have so much time to read, and it is annoying to get part way through a paper only to realize that it is presenting the same idea as a previous paper, just packaged slightly differently. Maybe the advantages of the additional publications and the wider dissemination of one's ideas outweigh any potential negatives, but I think its important to note that those negatives do exist.

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