Dialectic: Intellectual Ownership

One component to the debate over Leibniz and Newton in the development of the Calculus comes with the understanding of what is meant by “owning” and idea in the academic context. Merriam- Webster defines ownership as the state, relation, or fact of being an owner. We first begin with the widely held definition of ownership and add the constraint that intellectual ownership implies the state, relation, or fact of being an owner of an idea. Obviously there exists a problem with this definition. Since we are looking at the Calculus as an idea and a development in academia the definition of ownership with regard to ‘the fact of being’ is obtuse. ‘The fact of being’ implies that there is an official declaration of owning in the form of, for example, a contract. Furthermore, ‘the fact of being’ covers material ownership, since the Calculus is not a tangible item we must reform our definition to act outside of material ownership, therefore, our working definition of intellectual ownership as the state or relation to owning and idea. By broadening our definition to ‘the state or relation’ allows us to look in what way and to what extent one owns an idea. However, now we must focus on the meaning of ‘owning’.

Owning, again defined by Merriam Webster, in the transitive form means ‘to have power or mastery over.’ That is to own, means to have authority, in our case the authority over the Calculus. Consider now the definition of intellectual ownership.

“The state or relation to have power or mastery over an idea”

Or, in layman’s terms, to have some form of authority over an idea, the clear problem now is who has “power or mastery” over an idea. For example, I have mastery over the Calculus and I am related to the Calculus is that I have studied it however; I do not have any intellectual ownership of the Calculus. To lead to a well defined definition of intellectual ownership we must now make constraints to how an individual can be in a ‘state or relation to have power or mastery over an idea.’

First the nation of ‘relation’ should be addressed. Relation here is meant by being connected by affinity, to make this definition better I shall say that one is related to an idea if the affinity between the individual and the idea if the individual developed the idea. In terms of how we define intellectual ownership this new relation implies that in order for an individual to have intellectual ownership he must have developed the idea. Even with refining our definition further we still have a problem, in that I can still be viewed as being an intellectual owner of the Calculus in that I have developed the Calculus (by means of learning it). The crux of the definition of intellectual ownership is dependent on what is implied by ‘the state’ of having ‘power or mastery.’

‘The state’ has a large context in the metaphysical properties of intellectual ownership. Since we have taken out earlier that ownership could be material or determined by an official declaration, we must consider how one can be in a ‘state’ of ‘power or mastery’ over a non-material item, such as an idea. For our worry of ‘state’ to be clarified I look toward the rules that govern academic bodies. The question that is to be answered is ‘How is one in a state of mastery or power over an idea?’ In Mathematics one is in the state of having mastery of power over an idea if the person is A) one of the developers of the idea, B) if the person made significant developments to the idea after that of the developers. Mostly the aspect of the ‘state’ is determined by the members of the academic community and who the members view to be developers of the idea. To make matters easier I will take qualifier ‘A’ as how we should define ‘state.’

NEW DEFINITION: Intellectual Ownership: The individual(s) who developed an idea at its inception and have power and mastery over the idea at the time of inception.

Note, that I have incorporated the notion of the temporal into the definition. I do this to prevent further inconsistencies in what is meant by development and developer. At this point in time we now come to a dilemma as our definition pertains to the Calculus; either Leibniz is the intellectual owner of the Calculus or Newton (note I am taking out the case of them both being the owners because they developed the Calculus independently) . Clearly, or as is taught, both Leibniz and Newton developed the Calculus. But, as was discussed earlier, the developer is greatly determined on the members of the academic group that studies idea. In that case the groups that study the Calculus are Mathematicians and Physicists.

Since the Calculus is a member of Mathematics, mathematicians are at liberty to determine who has the Intellectual Ownership over the Calculus, this means looking at Leibniz and Newton and how they developed the Calculus. As was stated in my conceptual analysis Leibniz’ contributions largely lead to the development of Mathematics while Newton leads to the foundational work in Physics. Hence:

1) Calculus is a branch of Mathematics

2) Mathematics then determines the developers of mathematical concepts.

3) Leibniz’ Calculus leads to the development of Mathematics.

4) Mathematicians view developers as people who advance Mathematics.

5) Therefore Leibniz is the developer of Mathematics

6) Which Implies that Leibniz has Intellectual Ownership of the Calculus.