The Copy Crocs
By David Bedford and Emily Bolam, Peachtree Publishers
When Crocodile gets tired of sharing a crowded pool with all the other crocs, he ventures out to discover new places to hang out. Each time he finds a place that he enjoys, the other crocs -- the “copy crocs” -- quickly join him in his new stomping ground—much to Crocodile’s chagrin. Will Crocodile ever learn to share?
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Allison Drutchas
We’ve all heard the old platitude, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” However, when we take a closer look at copying behavior, we discover that there are a number of philosophical questions underlying every “copycat” incident. For instance, most of us would not condemn me for copying a friend’s outfit, hairstyle, or hangout spot. But when imitation took the form of copying a friend’s academic work, why would it be inappropriate, even morally reprehensible? In either case, I would be taking my friend’s idea, or what may more formally be considered my friend’s intellectual property. In the academic realm, utilizing another’s intellectual property is acceptable, so long as we give the source adequate credit. Is this also true in copy crocs’ case? That is, is copying someone else’s behavior without acknowledging that it is theirs in some way as blameworthy as using someone else’s academic writing without a proper citation?
One might respond by appealing to a difference in consequences. In terms of consequences, it’s just not that big of a deal to copy someone’s clothes or where they like to hang out. It just makes that style or place more popular, and maybe the person who found it slightly annoyed. This is unlike the case of academic work. In that case, careers and diplomas are at stake. In taking this intuitively appealing approach, we are using a particular philosophical framework for making normative judgments: consequentialism. Loosely, a consequentialist posits that whether an act is morally right or wrong should be determined by the consequences of that act.
The other crocs in this story inspire us to think not only about intellectual property, but also about property more generally. They matter-of-factly tell Crocodile that the pool is not his pool and that the mountain is not his mountain. What does make something yours? What makes something your private property? We often think that if something is your private property, you have special, if not exclusive, access to it. How do we justify these special rights? Many philosophers have tackled this question. John Locke posited that you make previously unclaimed land and natural resources yours, your private property, when you “mix” your labor with it. So, if you pick an orange, that orange is yours because you made the effort to pick it; you mixed your labor with it. This view, though intuitively appealing, certainly has puzzling elements. How exactly do we define what mixing your labor with something results in? When you picked the orange, did that particular orange become your property or did the whole tree become your property? This is not to mention that Locke’s theory does not clearly apply to cases where the entity in question is already privately owned.
Throughout the story, Crocodile also realizes that he likes exploring on his own as well as spending time with the other crocs. He comes to the conclusion that the good life for him is balanced. Aristotle thought that reaching eudaimonia, loosely translated as “happiness,” is the ultimate end for a human being. In order to reach eudaimonia, one must become a man (Aristotle’s gender bias, not mine) of practical wisdom. The man of practical wisdom’s behavior always consists in a mean between two extremes, and this mean is fitting to his circumstances. In a dangerous situation, a man of practical wisdom would determine how to take action in a way that fits between the extremes of being cowardly and being reckless—he would be courageous. In this story, Crocodile finds the proper mean between being entirely solitary and overly social.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Crocodile shouts at the other crocs, “Stop copying me!”
Crocodile asks, “Why do you keep copying me?” The other crocs respond, “Because you’re always doing new, fun things.”
The other crocs tell Crocodile, “We can sit here if we want. It’s not YOUR mountain.”
Crocodile “never knew his pool was so big” until he was the only one in it, until it was empty. Also, Crocodile thought there was only room for one at the top of the mountain, but he finds out later that all of the Crocodiles fit on the mountain.
The Good Life
When the other crocs surprised him, “Crocodile felt wonderful.”