Philosophy Cafe - Cafe Philosophique Message Board › Your Last Word on CREATIVITY
Here are some questions prompted by our discussion that might inspire you to do some careful thinking. Feel free to use your own, however. A paragraph is a good length, like an elevator pitch.
• Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit emphasizes development of rituals, knowing your strengths, organizing your inventory of ideas, and so forth. How can we resolve these "professional" recommendations with the feeling that creativity should be spontaneous? What can you make of suggestion of alternating between structured and spontaneous activity?
• Hephaestus was the Greek god of creativity. Prototype of the tortured artist, this cripple was the only "nerd" in the Pantheon. What is the connection between pain and creativity?
• Co-creating: what's that about? How does collaboration differ from creation by one individual?
• Some views of the universe are "big-bang" (seemingly followed by determined unfolding) and others say that the future is being created at every moment to maintain the "steady state" we experience. Is creation more than rearrangement of what already exists? Is there any philosophy that treats the truly NEW?
• What inhibits creativity? Is it the knowing stare of authority, critics, ourselves, or the existence of knowledge itself?
• What inspires creativity? Why do we say "inspires" instead of "causes"?
• Does creativity really "exist," or is it a chimera, epiphenomenal, or a social construct? Is creativity for its own sake narcissistic? Given that not every new thing is useful or even enjoyable, is "newness" overrated? If these are trends, why are they occurring today?
• Do your own creative ideas have to be innovative, useful, or original? If not, are there other properties you require of them to consider them "creative"?
• Taking a line of inquiry as a sample domain very pertinent to our group, compare the creative strategies of following an existing train of thought further and further, versus relaunching from a prior stopping point or randomly selected point. (Thanks to whoever suggested this topic! It fit the billing of a "creative meeting" perfectly. Sorry we didn't focus on it. Better late than never!)
• The experience of the psychological "flow" state is often associated with creativity, characterized by a lack of self-consciousness. MRI studies haven't found "flow," but have shown that achieving a certain skill proficiency frees up the brain to do more "creative" work. Is the experience of flow an indicator of creativity in action? If not, what might explain the association we make? Consider especially that the object being created cannot be focused on until it is!
• Why should it be that we are sometimes afraid of what we create? Darwin didn't publish the theory of evolution because he feared its consequences; politicians present decidedly uncreative solutions in apparent terror of voter reaction (e.g., gun control); art critics give higher weight to making reference to established works than to being original. How do we summon the courage to welcome the "new" into the world?
• Casual conversation is a creative act all of us can perform. Every utterance must be new (if not completely unique), as highlighted by the comic nature of mechanical speech ("The. Nile. Is. The. Longest. River. In. Africa"). Is there reason to expect that creativity in speech should transfer to other domains? What might the structure of conversation tell us about how the mind works? How does the association of ideas lead to a "creative spark"?
• The impulse to improvise might have been selected for by evolution, as it is useful in some situations, but how do we determine which ones? Why do many people feel little or need to improvise, while others have an urge to break the slightest routine? Should there be health benefits to exercise of creativity?
• Investigating creative problem solving, psychology researchers have set up experiments in which clues are subtly provided to subjects: they solve difficult problems, but credit them to flashes of "insight." Could this mean that there is, indeed, "nothing new under the sun"?
• Sometimes the key element to a creative solution is sitting in front of everybody for a long time: the centerpiece of Einstein's theory of relativity is that the speed of light is constant–an observed fact, widely known prior to the theory. If you were not feeling charitable to Albert, you might say that it's not creative because it simply reacts–capitulates, even–to nature and works out the consequences. Tell your version of the birth of relativity (or some other idea you know better) such that we understand where the creativity arises.
• Is creativity limited in its "application" to domains that tolerate mistakes, such as painting, excluding those in which mistakes are costly, like surgery? Does that mean that "mistakes" are essentially different in music, for instance, where a mistake not infrequently becomes the "keeper" part of a composition?
• Improvisation always has some base material, often taken as its main distinguishing characteristic from composition. In jazz, it is the harmony. In the meeting we had on Laughter, we successfully improvised a conversation in which we followed a line of thought without reading the essay it came from. Improv acting, though, has next to none: usually the audience supplies a prompt, but that might just be a gimmick to establish that the material is unrehearsed. What insights into creativity are easier to get a handle on if we study the cases that don't begin with "nothing"?
• A student jazz group I played with had a running joke about "plugging into The Source" of true inspiration. But many people understand the mysterious roots of creativity to be explicitly spiritual. What does it say, that our usual relationship to spirit is to yield, that we are expected to devote ourselves to God, that we are slaves to the unconscious (though perhaps we should resist)? Can even logic be a source of creativity, if its essential power is that we submit ourselves to it?
• Someone described a duality or continuum between things that are time-bound versus that which is timeless. I did not get the details, but I include it here because I'm very interested in this aspect. Bergson's philosophy of "continuous creation of unforeseeable novelty" is deeply tied to a complex understanding of the nature of time.