When you speak or write, do you own the words that you have created? What about the thoughts that preceded those words?when you speak or write, do you own the words that you have created? what...

When you speak or write, do you own the words that you have created? What about the thoughts that preceded those words?

when you speak or write, do you own the words that you have created? what about the thoughts that preceded those words?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a fairly intense question. It goes to the very nature of who we are as human beings and what we think and believe. It also goes to what motivates us and what is the relationship between existence and essence. Such an epistemological question is not going to be answered in this forum here. At its best, only the process of reflection and discussion can be started. I think that in this light, the responses you get from here can be worthwhile. I am not certain if there is any thought that has not been inspired or motivated from another realm or agent of initiation. I think that it is very difficult to engage in something that has been created in a context devoid of any type of inspiration or root in another idea. In this light, human beings are like cable boxes and the thoughts spoken or written helps to unscramble the multiple signals that are impacting us.

As for “ownership,” I am not sure how ideas, words, or expression can be “owned.” It’s not real estate. I think that we can possess ideas in our articulation, but the moment we express them, they become for others to appropriate in accordance to their own subjectivity. This is similar to how our ideas were created, as we appropriated something that was out there in accordance to our subjectivity. Nothing was really someone else’s to start with and nothing is really ours to end with. Instead, we are able to place somewhat of a stamp on an element, make it ours but for a fleeting moment, until its release into the world where others will do what they will with what we have done. In this light, language and expression is global, it is universal, and it is something that is both creation from and reflection of ourselves and what we give to it.

Within this complexity lies the ultimate question of whether we created language or whether it helped to create us. I would like to commend you on posing such a question. I am sorry for not being able to answer it in a definitive and precise answer. With such an exploration, I can only say that the journey is probably more intense than any potential destination. Thanks for making me think. It’s a good thing.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given that so much of our experience, even our ability to articulate thoughts in a particular language, comes from outside influences, it is hard to label something as original or claim that one can have complete ownership of it.

Having said that, obviously there are times that people come up with "new" ideas or connect things that haven't been connected before, and I think they deserve some credit.  But, just as it is important to cite sources in a paper or in research, it is important to give credit to the ideas and thoughts and training that preceded that insight.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The English writer, Oscar Wilde, wrote that "most people's thoughts are the thoughts of others; their words a quotation."  Anyone who has viewed TV's reality programs would certainly agree with Mr. Wilde.  However, when one reads the great poets, he/she realizes that their expression in words of their feelings is unique.

As stated above, it is nearly impossible to engage in a thought that is not rooted in another idea previously expressed.  However, the new thought can be innovative, and therefore original to some extent.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Are we talking about intellectual property rights. There is a concept of intellectual property being in the public domain. As per this concept, what an individual says or writes can be copyrighted only when it is something original and substantial.  Things we may speak in a drawing room discussions, are considered to be in public domain and therefore not covered by copyrights.

Also there is another important principle of law relating to intellectual property rights. No one really owns the intellectual property absolutely. The law grants rights to individual to profit from original ideas and artistic creations to motivate people to innovate and create. After expiry of such protection period, there is no restriction on their use by others. Thus intellectual property right is an incentive given to individuals under provision of law, rather than their god given right.