Tuesday 13 August 2013

Is creativity random? An intrinsic ability? No: ultimately it is a matter of sensitivity to external inspiration


Most scientific accounts of creativity converge onto the idea that creativity is one half of a kind of natural selection process by which creativity produces an undirected spectrum of undirected 'random' variations, and intelligence selects plausibly true or useful variants from this spectrum by testing the variants against established knowledge.

(High intelligence being necessary - or at least very useful- to make these large numbers of comparisons that are testing random variants against knowledge with sufficient rapidity; and a large knowledge base being facilitated by that rapid learning which is characteristic of high intelligence).


But, this convergence of scientific theories upon creativity being random is not a discovery of science, rather it is simply a consequence of the metaphysical assumptions of science.

Science as a metaphysical system excludes teleology, excludes there being any direction for functionality whereby a system might 'know in advance' what was closer to reality. Indeed, science denies the possibility of comparing theories and experiments with reality to estimate how close they come - because if reality was known outwith science, then there would be no need to do science - it would merely be a long-cut to reality, a resource-consuming and indirect method of doing-philosophy .


So, the basic set-up of science excludes the possibility of creativity being directed toward discovery of the nature of reality.

This exclusion of teleology has not and never could be discovered by science - it is built-into science, and emerges with inevitability (when it is sometimes - often! - naively mistaken for a discovery!).

Yet, in practice teleology is almost always smuggled into science covertly - and this seems to be inevitable considering that the number of possible random variations which could be generated is open-ended ('infinite') and there is no possibility of sorting among them.


However, the idea that creativity is random leads to some important - but false conclusions: for example the idea that there is 'something wrong' with the brains/ thought processes of creative people.

This idea is indeed in the background of Eysenck's work on creativity, and is a flaw - but it is a flaw shared with all the other psychologists I have read on the topic. Eysenck sees creativity in terms of a fuzziness of the thought processes, a widening of the association-field of thinking - which generates more random variation in the associational-chain of reasoning; this wider-variation/ imprecision then being sifted and selected-from by the extra powers of an extra-high intelligence.

In sum, according to this prevalent view, the creative genius is one who produces more randomly-generated garbage from his thinking, but who is also much better than average at sorting the garbage - and consequently finds the occasional nugget of usefulness among the garbage.


As I say, this conclusion is not a discovery but in fact a necessary consequence of the metaphysical assumptions brought to the field. And it is a conclusion which - although not impossible in principle - may be impossible in practice due to the likelihood that randomness generates an impossibly high ratio of wrong/ useless variation compared with the rarity of correct/ useful variation.

I think this view also fails to correspond with common sense ideas about creative genius, or even everyday creativity; and also fails to match the 'phenomenology' or introspective psychology of successful creation (so far as this can be ascertained) - which has teleological (goal-seeking) features, and a sense of sureness and truth very much a part of it.


Nonetheless, regarding creativity as random has fed into (or at least supports) the prevalent modern Western secular account of creativity as being about novelty, and the distortion of evaluation which sees novelty as merely something different - and which reject the possibility of evaluating novelties.

I mean the view that puts 'modern art' (post Picasso) on a level with the great art of the past, and the latest critic-approved examples of 'artistic genius' into galleries alongside Rembrandt.

And the view (the prevalent, mainstream view among professional psychologists) with argues that this novelty-creativity comes from the (incoherent) personality trait called Openness to Experience -


- which more or less reduces to the personality trait of being high IQ with Left wing views.

This modern 'creativity' is essentially definable as high status novelty; derived from almost-randomly-generated novelty (in practice, novelty generated by rote procedures of extrapolation from or selection and recombination of the products of past-creativity derived form social and political studies) - upon which are conferred high social status by the prevalent dominant secular Left wing intelligentsia.


But, but but...

The traditionally, in previous non-secular cultures; the underlying reality of creativity, above and beyond science, is that creativity is primarily from outwith the creative person.

That the creative person is one who has some gift conferred from outwith himself - from inspiration - the muses, gods or evil spirits.

So the creative person is not - in the final bottom-line analysis - someone with a particular ability, but someone with a particular sensitivity.

Namely, a particular sensitivity to these sources of external inspiration - inspirations which may be benign/ useful, or indeed malign and destructive.