Wednesday 19 October 2011

New truths versus Ruined truths: creativity and neophilia


Two conceptualizations of Creativity.

1. True Creativity.

The bringing to light of a New truth - or what feels new, feels striking.

Often enough it is an old truth, but seen from another angle.

Typically its sources are somewhat mysterious - because they come from trance or dream-like states of mind in which associations form spontaneously.

(Of course the truth may be a disguised-lie.)

True creativity is transcendentally neutral - the evaluation depends on its content - but it can be Good.


2. Neophilia - the love of novelty.

 Taking existing truths and doing something to them to make them different: selecting, combining, inverting.

The effectiveness of neophilia comes from outside the process of neophilia - it takes existing truths, which are of interest and have an effect because they are truths - and then it does something to these truths.


Neophilia is about ruining truths, not discovering truths.

It is an intellectual activity, done in the cold light of day; not dreamlike: it depends on knowledge (of past truths) and analysis.

Neophilia embraces all that we term fashion, in all the myriad areas of life where fashion is operative.

Neophilia is a vice.


Modern creativity is neophilia, not true creativity - as can easily be seen from its products as well as from the personality types and motivations of those who pass for creative in modern culture.

Modern creativity is high status, and at the same time it is anti-Good - it is literally parasitic upon real creativity.

Real creativity presumably remains, but kept in the private sphere - because real creativity is spontaneous, involuntary and not controllable: its products can be filtered, but not pre-determined; nor can they be explained.


Naturally, neophilia tries to fake true creativity. It fakes the products, it fakes the lifestyle of the true creative... so what is the bottom line, what is the essence of creativity?

The essence is the process not the product.

So a dream, vision, trance, flight of ideas is the essence of true creativity - what makes the product interesting or important is what happens next.

But what makes creativity Good (or indeed, evil) is inspiration - which comes from outwith the human mind.


Delete the conviction of inspiration, and true creativity withers, and becomes of private interest merely - like Jung's creative products (paintings, writings, building) - a therapy but not an art.

The roots of such creativity are valid, but the product is vapid.

So that is the state of things in a secular, modern society: true creativity retreats to an involuntary private activity (an amusement, a hobby) or perhaps a personal therapy (done as a means to the end of gaining self-knowledge and healing some wound of the mind - typically alienation).

True creativity cannot fulfill a role of shewing new truths, nor even a role of illuminating old truths, where there is no concept of Truth.


And public, high status creativity is One Hundred Percent fake: it is merely neophilia, fashion, a matter a job for intellectuals.

A matter of working through the old truths, and incrementally, systematically ruining them.



Daniel said...

"true creativity retreats to an involuntary private activity (an amusement, a hobby) or perhaps a personal therapy (done as a means to the end of gaining self-knowledge and healing some wound of the mind - typically alienation)."

I don't understand. Do you mean to say that these two activities (the latter you call "therapy" which makes me think you view it negatively) are not worthwhile? Or are you merely pointing out how creativity is so denigrated today that it can only survive in private?

If this actually the state of affairs, should not private attempts at true creativity be viewed positively? Akin to keeping a candle burning when all the fires have gone out?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Daniel - I think creativity is a disposition, rather than something attempted - but those who have that disposition should try to find a way to go with the grain of their disposition.

My point was that the creative disposition now seems to be disconnected from public discourse and functionality. The public has no *use* for real creativity, but embraces the fake creativity of neophilia.

In terms of personality theory, real creativity is psychoticism/ schizotypy (higher in men, uncorrelated with IQ); fake creativity is Openness-to-experience (positively correlated with IQ).