Wednesday 11 September 2013

A Pygmalion theory of creativity: 'Love of the subject' is the perspective which enables creativity


I have previously argued that creativity is rare, and that it is typically inhibited (or more accurately that its per-requisites are lacking) due to the domination of the social perspective.

It is a pre-requisite of creativity that there be 'a problem' - that a line is drawn around some bit of reality as the problem for which a solution is sought.

But why should this happen - what motivates someone to look at the world in such a way that it is seen to consist of problems which that person is motivated to solve?


At a high level, the motivation is seen as 'love of the subject' - by which I mean that a creative genius loves their subject matter, that upon which they exercise their creativity - some abstract activity such as music, a branch of science, poetry...

That subject is what has the line drawn around it as the object of creative concern, and the love of that subject is what makes the concern creative - because if there is no love of subject, then problem is used as a means to the end of other satisfactions - usually personal and/or social satisfactions.


This distinguishes creativity from things like the pathological obsessions of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or the repetitive perseverations of autism - that creativity is derived from a love of that abstracted entity we term 'the subject' - and that 'the subject' includes matters of impersonal functionality and not only the gratification of personal satisfactions or service to socially approved goods.


So, a creative solution is, on the one hand, not done to please the boss nor for fun; and on the other hand is not done from a compulsion or to avoid psychological distress - but rather, the creative mid-set is orientated to some abstract subject-and-function such as making a real and good poem or piece of music; or understanding the underlying reality and causal mechanisms of some chunk of the natural world (a gene, a cell, a mouse - or the species of mice, or an ecosystem) - or simply solving the problem of picking and washing carrots.


To solve the carrot picking triangle problem therefore entails recognizing that there is a problem - drawing a line around the abstract functional entity which is picking, washing, carrying carrots - and then having an effective motivation to improve that abstract function - 'caring' about the problem enough to want to improve understanding, prediction, functionality for its own sake.

This can be made to sound trivial, but if creativity is as rare as I suspect, then it is an unusual situation for somebody to attain this frame of mind.

Creativity is rare precisely because it combines abstraction with motivation.

For creativity to become possible, it seems that abstraction and motivation must be fused.


A person who merely created an abstraction would tend, by that act, to make himself (and others) indifferent to the abstraction.

A good example are the organizational abstractions which are generated by modern management or the artifacts generated by modern art - created arbitrarily, and regarded with indifference.

A person who was merely driven by motivation, would be motivated by the usual things that motivate people (personal pleasure, pain avoidance, the desire for status, hunger, lust etc). This would not lead to the generation of functional abstractions nor to a concern with 'the subject'; but would lead to 'making the best of the world as they find it' - accepting whatever are the existing abstract ways of chunking reality.


So, it seems that the pre-creative state is a fusion of the motivating love of subject with the generation of an abstraction - in a sense, the creative person falls in love with his own creation - rather like the legendary Pygmalion fell in love with a beautiful statue he had sculpted.

And not only that - he falls in love with his own creation but it was precisely that potential love which enabled the creation in the first place - so it is equally true to say that the creative person is creating something to fall in love with.

(This also suggests a profound dissatisfaction with 'the world' as it already exists, which lies behind the creative attitude - since that attitude is an implicit rejection of what actually-is, in favour of what I (the creator) hope to make.)


The Pygmalion legend is therefore the master myth of creativity - and it captures not just the skill and nobility of creation, but also the pathetic (pathos-filled) and absurd aspect of creativity; by which the creator is necessarily an isolated figure infatuated by something which other people regard as un-real; in love with what appears to them as an inert and arbitrary chunk of abstracted reality.

The attitude of a creator to that which he creates, his seriousness about his subject, must strike other people as bizarre; since they seek merely to use his creations for pursuing pre-existing purposes of personal and societal satisfaction.