The Notion of Creativity Revisited – A Philosophical Perspective on Creativity Research
This article is a critical, yet constructive, review of some recent attempts to deﬁne and understand creativity, informed by the methods and debates of contemporary philosophy. I argue that the deﬁnitional project is not essential to creativity research, but important nevertheless. The standard deﬁnition of creativity as the production of something that is both novel and appropriate is on the right track, but needs further qualiﬁcation and tends to be elaborated in ways that make it either too narrow or too broad. I argue that the product, and not the person or process, should be viewed as the primary bearer of creativity and criticize some inﬂuential theorists for making creativity too strongly dependent on social acceptance, while also recognizing that the realist alternative tends to widen, and thus threatens to trivialize, the central notion of an appropriate product. The notion of response-dependence might be of some help to ﬁnd the proper balance between the two extremes, and some comparisons with evolutionary theory also help to shed further light on the problem. Finally, I try to spell out the practical consequences of my investigation for creativity research.
It is not the concrete creative processes that are mysterious or elusive; it is the very notion of creativity that remains inherently paradoxical. There is something irremediably strange about the idea of simultaneously transgressing the norms while still acting appropriately. It is akin to some of the deep philosophical paradoxes such as, for example, the paradox of freedom, a notion that seems to require of an action that it should neither be a product of necessity nor simply of chance, or the learning paradox raised in Plato’s Meno: Human beings cannot search either for what they know (for, in that case, they would have it already) or what they do not know (for, in that case, they would not even know what to search for).