Creativity is that rare ‘thing’ that shapes the human experience and drives progress in every human effort, from the arts to the sciences, business, and technology. We celebrate and honour individuals for their creativity, identifying distinguished individuals, as well as complete cultures and societies, in terms of their creative accolades.
Creativity is a vehicle of self-expression as well as an element of what makes us who we are. One might, thus, expect creativity to be a significant topic in philosophy, especially as it raises such a wealth of fascinating philosophical questions.
Unfortunately, philosophers writing about creativity have sometimes had the tendency to disregard the scientific literature. In some cases, they have even taken it so far as to claim – after citing just a few studies – that creativity is, by its very nature, unpredictable and therefore beyond the scope of science.
Even though the question of whether creativity can be explained is a philosophical question, it is not one that is excluded from empirical work.
Can creativity be explained empirically?
The question of if creativity can be explained empirically is itself, at least partly, an empirical question. In fact, several issues arise at the intersection of philosophy and psychology. These questions are treated best with contributions from both.
This interdisciplinary approach is supported by a new school of creativity researchers who are part of a much broader trend toward dialogue and collaboration between scientifically-minded philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists. This exchange can be fruitful, as philosophers draw on scientific research and scientific work is informed by philosophical perspectives.
Let’s examine some of these philosophical issues.
The creativity concept
Perhaps the most central question for any study of creativity, philosophical or otherwise, is ‘What is creativity’? The term “creative” is utilised to describe four kinds of things: a
There is a growing consensus that a product must meet two conditions to be creative.
- It must be new, of course,
- But since novelty can be worthless (as in an irrelevant string of letters), it must also be of value.