Thursday, 12 March 2015

The fundamental nature of creativity - creativity as the operation of free will and the true self

It is hard to define creativity; indeed I have never seen a satisfactory definition. We recognise exceptional creativity, and exceptionally creative people - but nonetheless it is hard to say what creativity might be.

That suggests to me that creativity is a very fundamental attribute. My understanding is that creativity is the action of free will.

In other words, there is a backdrop of events that follow a cause and effect logic - but creativity is when these chains and webs of quasi-mechanical unfolding are qualitatively changed by the operation of autonomous choice from a being with free will.

As further clarification, many or most or perhaps sometimes all f a person's choices are not made by their true self using free will; but are automatic, conditioned, quasi-mechanical responses due to 'false selves' such as the public personality. The real self in an adult is typically a hidden and enfeebled thing; buried under habits, socialisation, instincts and much else.

I think that this may be a relatively rare occurrence in the lives of most people, and that high levels of creativity are therefore rare. Geniuses are among the rare people who seem to have a greater access to their true selves, are in frequent communication with their true selves: this is the integrity of genius, which shines out from so many biographies of geniuses.

Good or bad, nice or nasty; a genius is an integrated personality; highly autonomous from other people is his views and motivations; one aware-of and dominated-by inner drives; one whose decisions, evaluations, choices are distinctive and highly independent.

Geniuses are 'inner' people; and this innerness is, I suggest, the source of their creativity. It could be said that geniuses are made (are born) such that they are connected with inner sources of thinking, including being connected with the real self.

Of course, geniuses have free will just like everybody else - and the born genius may choose to reject his destiny, and not to use his special abilities. But in this respect the genius is just an extreme of the universal situation.

If creativity happens when free will intervenes in reality, then geniuses are simply those who combine a high awareness of the operations of their free will, with exceptional ability. Presumably anybody and everybody can and sometimes does 'tap-into' and use their real self in making autonomous choices; but the non-genus does this seldom and easily ignores or rejects the consequences - also the non-genius may have merely average (or below average) abilities; so that the fruits of their creativity is of little interest to other people.

But, whether or not it is impressive or influential, actual creativity is simply this process of using free will of the real self to choose. Creativity 'has happened' if this has happened - whether or not we know about it, whether or not it has a measurable effect on human affairs.

(Conversely, what may appear to be a 'creative act', impressive, influential, widely admired or useful, is not truly creativity if it is not a product of free will, if it does not eventuate from free will; if it is merely the product of quasi-mechanical unfolding of cause-and-effect processes.)



Nicholas Fulford said...

I see creativity as an innovative - non-linear - response to both an intense drive, persistence, and an obstacle. Intelligence provides the raw horsepower, but is insufficient without the flexibility to approach the obstacle from a multitude of frames. Often no single frame will provide the answer, but by returning often and faithfully to the obstacle - with many lessons brought from experience in a wide range of experience in life - a solution may suddenly emerge which in the aftermath often seems obvious to those who never had to grapple with the problem, but have the advantage of hindsight.

This view of creativity reminds me of the discipline that is imposed by a Zen master on his students via the koan. The student tries every approach he can conceive of to resolve the koan, bringing as much of what he has to bear upon it, and each attempt yields failure, until there is a moment when the problem resolves in a moment of startling clarity. Creativity is like that, and it involves getting past the obstacles we have internally as much as it does grappling with a particular koan. It is a transformative process, but there has to be intelligence, desire, flexibility and intelligence, as well as an ability to surrender a fruitless method to try something completely different. It is so easy to become trapped in a fixed pattern of behaviour and thought, and to back out of that to playfully engage the obstacle in ways peculiar and new is a requirement. We have to be able to access the child's curiosity and sense of wonderment to allow backing away from our neurotic attachments to throw it all up in the air, and to see with fresh eyes. The beauty of it is that the process is restorative. It is like climbing a mountain with hardly a breath of air, and in rounding the final bend being confronted with an immense beauty and state that was unimaginable just a few seconds prior. I live for those moments. There is nothing else like them.

Unknown said...

@Bruce: IMO your scheme fits in neatly with Popperian epistemology. That is, an idea is deemed true if there are no existing criticisms of it. Within a single mind this can be perceived only if there is a strong connection with the inner body or 'true self'. This is because emotions, which communicate via the body, are *the* means by which competing but tangential ideas signal their existence. It accords also I believe with Antonio Damasio's Somatic Marker Hypothesis (see his "Iowa Gambling Task").

@Nicholas: "response to [...] intense drive". Yes, but only because most people are self-deceiving and only weakly connected to their true selves. It takes a crisis (or great persistence, as you mention) for them to act creatively.

-- Tom