A&O – CREATIVITY

ART AND ORGANISM

CREATIVITY

 


. . . Alice laughed.  “There’s no use trying,: she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”  “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,”  said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”   (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass,  ch.5)

 

“What if imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience? What if our logic and science derive from art forms and are fundamentally dependent on them rather than art being merely a decoration for our work when science and logic have produced it?”  (Rollo May, Courage to Create)


Creativity defined. All definitions are fraught with problems.  The foremost problem is reconciling consensus and utility.  That is, the users of the term should agree on its meaning and the definition should hopefully keep the phenomenon defined open to growth.  In that spirit, a definition that helps make creativity accessible to scientific scrutiny is:  “Creativity involves both the process and product of unprecedented or novel perception, thoughts, or actions by which an organism or group of organisms copes with present or potential changes in the composition and structure of its environment.  It reflects a spontaneous or elicited intensity of cognitive processing that can relate and integrate variables not ordinarily associated with each other.  It is a potent biological adaptation in that it catalyzes or facilitates a regulatory or advantageous change in response to a real or perceived stress by an individual or group of individuals.”   Like all adaptive traits it seeks to preserve stability, the safe “status quo”and it results in an improved “fit”of an organism (or group) to its (their) environment and consequently higher fitness in terms of direct (personal) or  indirect (non- descendent kin) contribution to future generations.  Creativity makes CONNECTIONS.


Creativity enabled. A surprising link between imagination and memory   

Creativity meets NEEDS. Creative perceptions, thoughts, or actions within individuals associate familiar or novel stimuli in varying combinations to serve that individual’s biological need.  Intrinsic reward systems operate to maintain this valuable activity.  When these perceptions, thoughts, or actions are communicated by example (modeling) or pedagogy (teaching) to serve social needs, the creative individual is identified and acknowledged.   (Greenberg 2004)   

NEEDS MET.  Acts of creation and works of art may serve needs important for individuals to survive and prosper.  For example, by creating and experiencing art, one may gain access to otherwise inaccessible aspects of consciousness.  In addition, the act of creating art is an important exercise in the intercommunication of different levels of consciousness and their integration with motor skill.  Further, art can catalyze change, and art can heal.   MORE on NEEDS met by ART

 

CREATIVITY is arguably the human trait that has enabled our success as individuals and our successful proliferation as a species.  The more we describe and understand the DEEP ethology of creativity, the better we can remove impediments to its expression.  There are several descriptions, some of which have  been turned into cognitive technologies [more]

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREATIVITY as we define it hopefully “incorporates and enlarges Poincaré’s (1913) famous definition: “To create consists of making new combinations of associative elements which are useful.” (p. 286) Creative perceptions, thoughts, or actions within individuals will associate familiar or novel stimuli in varying combinations to help that individual meet its needs (Maslow, 1954),  which may be of varying urgency.   Intrinsic reward systems operate to maintain this valuable activity. When these perceptions, thoughts, or actions are communicated by setting an example (modeling) or by pedagogy (teaching) to serve social needs, the creative individual is identified and acknowledged.”

from Greenberg, 2004. (“THE BEAST at PLAY: the Neuroethology of Creativity” [complete text])

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEVELOPMENT of CREATIVITY:  “Baby talk then provides an unconscious aesthetic template after children have mastered verbal communication. “It could well be the reason we have emotional responses to temporal art, such as literature and music,” Miall says. If so, poetry and art may be interpreted as forms of social bonding that linger long after the initial mother-infant attachment is outgrown.” (“from Who’s a Little Bitty Artist? Yes, You Are!”  By Jocelyn Selim in DISCOVER Vol. 25 No. 05 | May 2004 | Mind & Brain [more]

 

Historically, “creativity” has not been “accessible” to scientific scrutiny because it was regarded as divinely inspired.  It was rude if not sacrilegious to inquire too closely or to demystify it. 

 

But times change.   A BIOLOGICAL interpretation of any behavioral pattern, creativity included, involves the converging insights of at least four key disciplines.  ONCE, the behavioral pattern is described in a way amenable to biological inquiry, these four disciplines —  Developmental biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, and physiology (collectively nicknamed DEEP).  Although there are obvious areas of overlap, each discipline asks different questions and use different methods to answer them.  Consider the different biological NEEDS that the behavioral pattern serves. 

 

 

What is needed is a 

Biologically “congenial” definition of CREATIVITY

 

The capacity for creative acts –like all biological traits–  is more-or-less well developed in any individual or group and can be a potent biological adaptation in that it catalyzes or facilitates a regulatory or advantageous change in response to a real or perceived stress by an individual or group.  Like all adaptations it results in an improved “fit” of an organism (or group) to its (their) environment and consequently higher fitness in terms of direct or indirect contribution to future generations.

 

 

 

Creative perceptions, thoughts, or actions within individuals associate familiar or novel stimuli in varying combinations to serve that individual’s biological need.  Intrinsic reward systems operate to maintain this valuable activity.  When these perceptions, thoughts, or actions are communicated by example (modeling) or pedagogy (teaching) to serve social needs, the creative individual is identified and acknowledged.


Joan:  . . . you must not talk to me about my voices.

Robert:  How do you mean? Voices?

Joan:   I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.

Robert: They come from your imagination !

Joan: Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.

 


INSPIRATION and IMAGINATION both have a surprising element of passivity (not unlike that seen in “spiritual experiences”).  Artists find this a common experience — as though too much thought intrudes upon the quality of the connection between cognition and noncognitive consciousness . . . the reservoir of memories and feelings to which consciousness does not ordinarily have easy access:  Artists “abandon themselves” to the process!  [more] [broken link]

 Are there connections between  Creativity and Dreams?  Creativity and specific states of consciousness?.  Creativity and Madness?  Creativity and mystical experience?  Behavioral disorders and creativity [broken links]

 

The connections between creation and discovery are never clear-cut”,

The Sciences, Vol. 24, p.16, 1984

 

    How artists have experienced creation: read INTUITION, INSPIRATION, SPONTANEITY

 


Speaking of the SUBLIME, The British Library  steers into:  Wordsworth’s view bearing on Imagination and the divine

The poet’s failure to locate the sublime in nature is countered, however, by a rousing hymn to the imagination. In lines that affirm the superiority of mind over nature, Wordsworth writes of how imagination reveals the ‘invisible world’ where ‘greatness’ lives (line 536). ‘Our destiny, our nature, and our home’, he continues:

Is with infinitude, and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.
(1805 Prelude, lines 538-42)

At this point in the poem imagination, revealed as infinite in power and scope, appears triumphant over ‘the light of sense’ (line 534), a synonym for the time-bound world of nature. But this image of the mind’s transcendence of matter is matched by a terrifying sequence of lines in which the ‘blasts of waterfalls’, ‘thwarting winds’ and the noise of a ‘raving stream’ become ‘Characters of the great apocalypse, / The types and symbols of eternity, / Of first, and last, and midst, and without end’ (lines 558-72; passim). With echoes of the Book of Revelation and of Paradise Lost the mode of sublimity that wins out in these lines is not the sublimity of nature or of mind, but of God.” (from British Library site: https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/wordsworth-and-the-sublime )

 

An Existentialist’s view of Imagination:

In the conclusion to The Imaginary Jean-Paul Sartre draws attention to the centrality of imagination in human life. He describes imagination as “a constitutive structure” of consciousness, emphasizing that it is not a contingent feature of consciousness, but rather pertains to its very essence.1 And since consciousness defines the human, imagination is a necessary feature of every human being. As Sartre himself puts it, “…imagination…is…an essential and transcendental characteristic of consciousness.”2

Following these and other remarks, numerous commentators addressed the centrality of imagination in Sartre’s work.3 Yet, despite their different foci and perspectives of study, these and other interpretations present Sartre’s conception of imagination along similar lines, arguing that he understands imagining as an activity by means of which one breaks off from the real;4 an activity that opens a gap between consciousness and the world, such that it allows humans to “…nihilate the world – the domain of the perceptually given, the empirically real – in order to enter a realm in which an unhindered spontaneity becomes possible”.5 This line of thinking is loyal to Sartre’s insistence that human imagination epitomizes freedom. In allowing consciousness to withdraw from experience, imagination manifests “…the potential of consciousness to live and gain distance from the ensnaring presence of the perceptual world”.6 Imagination is understood as a negating force, able to annul reality and suspend our current, pragmatic engagements with it.

This interpretation in turn gave rise to a critique of Sartre’s theory of imagination. Paul Ricoeur famously argued that in emphasizing its negating features, Sartre neglects the productive dimensions of imagination, dimensions which are most manifest in the creation of fiction. In fiction, imagination does not simply suspend reality in favor of its mirror image, the absent object, but rather produces new meaning which is irreal.”7 (Lior Levy (2019) British Journal of Aesthetics, 59(2)

 

A phenomenolist’s view (J. Jansen 2010)

The problem that Jansen identified is the fact that “The concept of imagination is notoriously ambiguous. … Thus one must be cautious not to use ‘imagination’as a placeholder for diverse phenomena and processes that perhaps have not much more in common than that they are difficult to assign to some other, better defined domain, such as perception, conceptual thought, or artistic production. However, this challenge also comes with great opportunities: the fecundity and openness of ‘imagination’appeal to researchers from different disciplines with different approaches and …”   (see J Jansen’s “Phenomenology, imagination and interdisciplinary research” (in the  Handbook of phenomenology and cognitive science, 2010 – Springer; Related articles All 9 versions)

CREATIVE INTEGRATION.

NEW ideas or observations are manifest through EXPLORATION or by INVENTION. PHENOMENA—THINGS—have meaning only insofar as they are CONNECTED.  Discoveries are made in the world outside of us (as they come to light through our senses) and the representations of the world within us (as we become aware through intuition or directed reflection).   Some degree of creativity is manifest in every accommodation of new information within us as unique individuals and between us as we are able to act upon or share our experience.

(we can be very familiar with a phenomenon, but its meaning can be dramatically enlarged when new connections are formed.  Goethe said thatAll truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.”[i]  This taking root however requires SENTIENCE (heart, feeling) as well as SAPIENCE (mind, thinking) and together they evoke a transformation –The “Transformative Learning Experience,” when mere knowing information becomes realizing and its reach within one’s mind and life is dramatically enlarged.  The cognitive experience may even require love, as Goethe (again) puts it, “A man doesn’t learn to understand anything unless he loves it”[ii])

“…even if we don’t limit ourselves to romantic or heroic perspectives on the nature and value of creativity, it’s commonly thought that creativity at least aims at novelty or originality.

This way of thinking about creativity isn’t universal. The Zhuangzi (莊子), a classical Chinese philosophical and literary text, provides a different perspective. On one interpretation, creativity isnt conceived as aiming at novelty or originality, but rather integration. Instead of aiming at something new, it aims at something that combines well with the situation of which it’s a part.”

Read the complete essay at by Julianne Chung at PSYCHE (https://psyche.co/ideas/to-be-creative-chinese-philosophy-teaches-us-to-abandon-originality?)

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These ideas are deeply connected to those explored by Gunther Stent in “Prematurity and Uniqueness in Scientific Discovery”  — The main point he made–that a  novel idea must be connected by stepping stones to those from which it is emerged–was noted by Wordsworth: “… every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.” (William Wordsworth 1807)[i] .

Emily Dickenson (1868) observed that … “The Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind — Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” (a necessity not lost on transcendent entities who take recognizable forms in order to be heard by human beings with whom they would communicate.)   

 


[i] William Wordsworth (1770-1850) “Letter to Lady Beaumont, 21 May 1807,” in E. de Selincourt (ed.) Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth vol. 2 (revised by M. Moorman, 1969)

 

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NEXUS

A&O-CREATIVITY:

THE POWER OF TRANSLATION: the differences between languages is derived from the relative isolation that allows the cultivation and consolidation of alternative ways of thinking or of perspectives or of serendipitous or adaptive relative emphases on specific dimensions; between parts of the mind (such as from idea to internal speech to writing or speaking… ), between disciplines (differences in modalities of representation, data & drawing, sonnet & science)

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ARTICLES in a special issue of American Scientist (July-August 2020)


[i]   [“All intelligent thoughts have already been thought, what is necessary is only to try to think them again” (Guterman trans of “Proverbs in Prose” (Spruche in Prosa … also there: “Doubt grows with knowledge”)  …   “New inventions can and will be made; however, nothing new can be thought of that concerns moral man. Everything has already been thought and said which at best we can express in different forms and give new expressions to.”  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet, dramatist. Conversation with Joseph Sebastian Grüner (August 24, 1823).  http://www.poemhunter.com/johann-wolfgang-von-goethe/quotations/page-4/SIMILAR:  “The most original authors of today are original not because they create something new but because they are capable of saying such things as if they had never been said before.”  –Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet, dramatist. Wilhelm Meister’s Travels, Reflections in the Spirit of the Travellers (1829).

[ii]. Man lernt nichts kennen als was man Liebt‑‑ Goethe. [complete:  “Man lernt nichts kennen, als was man liebt, und je tiefer und vollständiger die Kenntnis werden soll, desto kräftiger und lebendiger muß die Liebe, ja Leidenschaft sein.”  (Goethe in einem Brief an Jacobi, 1812)] 

One learns to know nothing but what one loves, and the deeper and more complete the knowledge is to become, the stronger, stronger and more alive must be love, even passion.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  (1749 – 1832), source: Goethe, letters. To Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, May 10, 1812