12-7-13 Hodgepodge

Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Hard Road for the Creative

Writing for Slate, Jessica Olien maintains that most people actually dislike creativity, although they may well appreciate its fruits and grasp that it is good on an intellectual level. While I am not sure I agree with everything she says, I think the following point is particularly insightful:

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it's also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People's partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas. [link dropped, bold added]
Creative ideas take effort to evaluate and may well cause emotional discomfort among those with less-active thinking habits. Fortunately, as the article points out, many creative people learn to overcome that common limitation in others.

Weekend Reading

"Rather than dismiss this as new-age silliness or psychobabble, I encourage people to look inward and identify what leads them to feel more or less emotionally safe." -- Michael Hurd, in "Emotional 'Safety'" at The Delaware Wave

"As they spout off, they are admitting, albeit implicitly, that they are not able or willing to figure out what's true anyway, so all that matters is that they look like they know what they're talking about." -- Michael Hurd, in "Saying 'No' for No Reason" at The Delaware Coast Press

"It may surprise those who damn 'the lust for gold' to hear this but gold, like music and painting, is a spiritual value." -- Harry Binswanger, in "In Praise of Gold. Not a 'Barbarous Relic' but a Spiritual Value" at Forbes

"My previous column ... was not meant as an advocacy of a gold standard--not if that means giving government the power to dictate what is and isn't money." -- Harry Binswanger, in "Free Money! Then Free the Rest of the Economy" at Forbes

In More Detail

In his piece on gold, Harry Binswanger makes his argument that gold has spiritual value by generalizing from comments Ayn Rand made about music and applying her identification of reason as man's means of survival. I'll include his excerpt of Rand on music here.
Music offers man the singular opportunity to reenact, on the adult level, the primary process of his method of cognition: the automatic integration of sense data into an intelligible, meaningful entity. To a conceptual consciousness, it is a unique form of rest and reward.
And I'll encourage my readers to head over to Forbes for the rest of the piece (linked above), which is absorbing and inspiring in its advocacy of gold.

A Classic, Now Illustrated

From a recent announcement by the Ayn Rand Institute:
"Metaphysics in Marble," an article on sculpture by art historian Mary Ann Sures, was published by Ayn Rand in The Objectivist (February-March, 1969) and recommended by Rand in the revised edition of The Romantic Manifesto.

Quoting from the article: "This discussion is a brief historical survey  . . . to indicate the means by which sculpture expresses abstractions--and to demonstrate the connection between the dominant philosophy of a given era and its sculpture." The article was originally published without illustrations.

Now, for the first time, the article is available online, supplemented by footnotes containing links to more than thirty online illustrations selected by the author to enhance appreciation of her text. [links in original]
Especially after reading the related Binswanger piece on gold, I look forward to revisiting this classic.



Steve D said...

Or could it be that accusations of a 'bias' against creativity are used by faux creative people as an excuse for why they didn’t succeed or by people who overestimate their own creativity?
Or are the people appearing to not appreciate creative ideas because they are envious that they didn’t have them themselves?
Or are they saying that disagreeing with one person’s creative ideas is tantamount to dissing creativity in general. Just because an idea is creative doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or that it will work.
I’m going to disagree with Jessica, here. It sounds too much like sour grapes. I’d have to actually read the study she mentions but most of these types of studies are not very good. In this case I can almost guarantee that the researchers found the result they wanted.

Steve D said...

To clarify the point I was trying to make in the last comment; the conclusion that people don’t really want creativity conforms so closely to most people’s biases that we should be very cautious about accepting it.
I do think creativity has become a corporate buzz word. People may say they want it more than they actually do.

Anonymous said...


I think Jessica Olien’s article is rationalism — the manipulation of words disconected from reality. She neither defines nor exemplifies “creativity.” Thus, her article is a harsh — equating creativity with such disparate topics as “risk-taking,” “non-conformity,” “uncertainty,” and “wonderful ideas.”

Her silly equation of creativity with Thoreauvian non-conformity leads to her silly critique of schooling: “Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. No one is more uncreative than the “teenage non-conformist.” My life as a school teacher has shown me that the creativity of students is directly proportional to their sense of epistemological confidence. And epistemologically confident students yearn for certainty, which is why they eagerly “follows directions” and “do what they’re is told.” They know, intuitively, that to command reality they have to obey reality.

Gus Van Horn said...

Steve and Anon.,

You both make solid objections to the article on creativity, Anon's calling out the lack of definition and equivocation between actual creativity and non-conformity being the most helpful in helping me see what bothered me about the article.

That said, I think that evaluation of creative work does require some level of comfort in dealing with uncertainty (e.g., Is the idea actually good? Does it have commercial potential?). That is something I had not considered before.