May 20, 2005
Thu May 19, 2005 11:59 pm
Next Sunday we are going to talk about creativity. From the way the meetings
have been developing I am sure that next Sunday will prove as creative as past
meetings. It's like applying a dose of our own medicine on ourselves.
Whilst talking with one of the members of the group it occurred to me that it is
about time we went to the mountains for some fresh air; and of course there is
always Segovia to be done. May I have your ideas please.
SUNDAY 6.00pm START at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
Subscribe yahoo group send an email to:
<<<<<<Pub Molly Malone, c/ Manuela Malasaña, 11, Madrid 28004>>>>>
metro: <Bilbao> : buses: 21, 149, 147
Once upon a time intelligent and clever men busied themselves with alchemy. The
intellectual challenge and the lure of a get rich quick scheme motivated a lot
of people. And although no one managed to convert lead into gold, we are still
fascinated by an intellectual challenge or a get rich quick scheme.
Of course we now know why the alchemists were doomed to failure, but the
alchemists themselves knew that they had to be super duper creative to succeed.
So how can we understand creativity? This should not be mixed up with, how can
we be creative? Or what does it take to be creative? Incidentally, if you do
know the real answer to these questions, let me know.
We usually ascribe to creativity the meaning of something being new or original.
And sometimes even something that is out of the ordinary. Of course, there are
other ways of being creative, but the new and the original are the real healing
makers. For example, the personal computer was not really a feat of creation.
Computers had existed for a very long time before PC's were invented. And binary
calculations even longer. What makes the personal computer the important
invention it is in our life is the silicon chip. The silicon chip was indeed an
act of creativity.
How common is creativity then? By definition creativity, of the headline making
type, cannot be that common, otherwise it wouldn't have the special status it
has. On the other hand it is sufficiently common for us to see progress, change
and innovation. Change is, indeed, the first philosophical issue we encounter
Creativity does bring with it change. We change the way we do things, the way we
see things, the way we behave, what we know and so on. Change is so fundamental
to existence that we find the first philosophers grappling with this very
problem. And change, I would submit, is the basis of science. Without chemical
reactions we wouldn't have chemistry, without the changing of mass or energy we
wouldn't have physics. In fact without change there wouldn't be a universe in
the first place.
The universe, as a subject, introduces its own issues regarding change and
creativity. What kind of creativity is required to bring about the creation of
the universe? The nature of God argument. Can something be created from nothing?
Ex nihilo argument. Are the laws of physics universally true? The intellectual
challenges introduced by quantum mechanics.
Can we say that change is a synonym for creativity? No; not if we assume
creativity to be always positive and change maybe positive and negative. Is
creativity always positive? We are certainly more impressed when creativity has
positive implications, but there are enough instances in life not to be the
case. We can be creative to invent new tools to solve problems or even be
creative in matters of aesthetics. But we can equally be creative to exploit
people better or just simply to kill and maim them quicker.
It is reasonable to assume that the universe is the biggest feat of all
creativity; whoever or whatever created the universe had something going for
them. This form of creativity brings about change as opposed to affecting
change. It's not something that happens, but something made to happen. A river
going through a plain changes the topology of that plain, but building a dam
brings about change where change was not causally possible without the
intention. Creativity which aims to make changes or results in changes requires
an element of intention usually coupled with purpose. This is another argument
why creative is not always positive; where there is intention there is always
the possibility that the intention is not good.
Of course, the ideas of bringing about change and intentionality are strong
arguments for the creationist argument. If the universe is the biggest creation
around then surely it was created by ''someone'' with a very powerful intention.
There are many arguments for and against creationism, but for my purposes now I
only want to consider intention. If we accept that creativity implies intention
then we are implying an intention held by some super being outside the realm of
the universe. And although there is no evidence to suggest that intentions
cannot exist outside the realms of the universe those who hold this view have
their work cut out to prove their case. Intentions usually relate to space and
time; for example, I cannot intend to do something in the past anymore than I
can intend to build a bonfire on the other side of the galaxy. There are limits
to what we can reasonably intend, but are there limits to what we can reasonably
be creative about? This question has a certain circular feel about it; at least
if I knew the answer I probably would not be here.
What about creativity as a result of an accident? Finding a purpose for our
creation is different from having an intention to apply creativity. Moreover, it
is irrelevant whether what we are doing or intending we call creativity. I
suggest that the label ''creativity'' is applied post facto; we recognise
creativity after its existence has been brought about and not before.
Maybe intention is a sufficient condition for creativity, but not a necessary
condition. But if we accept this we will have to accept that inanimate objects
or things not capable of intention can be creative. Not only would this squeeze
the creationist argument out of the debate, but we can safely say things like
Mt. St Helena was being creative when it remodelled parts of Washington State in
If we do accept that when we use the concept of creativity we are really
applying it to beings with a given degree of rationality then we need to include
intention. And with this in mind we can introduce an other aspect of creativity:
knowledge. What kind of epistemic state of mind does creativity require? What
roles do the conscious and the unconscious self play in creativity? To say that
these are complex issues is an understatement. However, there seems to be a
balance here between what we are doing and what we want to achieve and this is
what makes creativity a relatively rare event.
A challenge for creativity is indeed that of bridging the gap between what we do
and what we want to achieve. It seems that for human beings the main resources
we have to bridge this gap are intelligence and imagination. Once again we have
to deal with the issue of the epistemic state of the creative person. Could it
be that one feeds on the other; the more intelligent one is the more imaginative
one becomes? And when imagination comes to bridge the gap between what we have
and what is to become new we use the good old fashioned method of a quantum
Some would argue that creativity is more common than the impression I seem to
give. But surely it's always a question of quality or quantity. I would
certainly agree that we all have the potential to be creativity. For example,
every poem, every painting and every essay are by definition acts of creativity;
what we think of these things is an other matter. Maybe in the arts the kind of
knowledge that is required are skills and techniques and then putting these into
practice to express ideas and emotions. And through this process we find
examples of creativity manifesting itself into new things. In technology we also
find creativity as the creation of new things. However, is there scope for
creativity in science? After all, science is about understanding the world and
not about inventions. Understanding how the atom works came first then people
started building nuclear power stations. Of course, at the very least, there is
always scope for interpreting old data in new ways and from there go on to
discover new things. But this is more creativity about us as opposed to creating
Maybe the best test we can apply to creativity for originality, quality and
novelty would be the test of time. You will agree with me that the universe will
certainly pass this test with flying colours. But what about us, human beings?
Is creativity a trait unique to human beings only? One thing is for sure, for
creativity to flourish and continue we must be prepared to explore the new and
move away from the herd mentality. Maybe the best creativity we can come with is
the one when we are creative about ourselves.