Essays, Analyses and Meditations

Back to my essays | Back to the Philosophy pages | Author

Creativity in Art and Science

  • I see two instincts at work in nature. On one hand there is "imitation": each living being tends to imitate what other living beings are doing. This is a widespread instinct, and i have come to believe that this is the fundamental "social instinct". It is pervasive in nature. It is pervasive in human society. A biologist can probably explain the instict of "imitation" as a consequence of sharing the same genes. A physicist might explain it as a consequence of the universal laws. People who imitate are considered "nice". They behave in a way that conforms to what society expects from its members.
  • Innovation, on the other hand, is not something that we find often in nature. Innovation is a risk. Animals "innovate" when there is a genetic mistake. In most cases those animals die. In rare cases they survive. They might generate a new species. They cause instability in the existing ecosystem. Innovation is rare and, when it survives, often catastrophic. "Innovation" in the planet's climate causes the extinction of thousands of species.
  • Innovation in human society is rarely welcome. It is most often met with skepticism, hostility and plain accusations of hereticism or madness. It is correctly perceived as a threat to the established order. In a sense, society is right to put innovators in madhouses: innovation is the social equivalent of a genetic mistake. It takes time for society to accept it for what it is: an innovation, that changed the established order and created a new order. Basically, people recognize it as "innovation" when they start imitating it. The paradox of innovation is that it is accepted as an innovation when it has become imitation.
  • Innovation is about knowledge. There is a body of knowledge that is shared by society. Innovation is when a piece of knowledge is added that dramatically changes the way that knowledge looks like: it causes a paradigm shift.
  • A formal system is a set of facts and rules. The rules can be used to deduct more facts from the existing facts, but this does not add any amount of "truth": it simply makes it explicit. In order to increase the amount of "truth", one needs to add a statement that cannot be deduced from the existing facts.
  • Innovation, creativity and knowledge are different ways to look at the same phenomenon.
  • Innovation requires creativity. Creativity can come from a genetic mistake or from a "malfunctioning" brain. I fail to see the difference between creativity and madness. Artists and scientists are mad to the extent that they "create" something innovative. The more innovative/creative, the more insane.