Rebirth of Reason


Creativity and Logic
by Joseph Rowlands

The word “creative” has a very strange usage these days. Young children are called creative when they scribble with crayons. Modern “artists” are considered creative when they spew out unrecognizable garbage. What's the theme? What are they getting at?

Creativity is supposed to be about creating, or bringing something into existence. Creating a new idea, or a new product, or a new piece of art are all supposed to be acts of creativity. In each case, a person brings something new into the world that hasn't been seen before. When the “something” that's brought into existence is valuable, people rightly look at the creator with respect and admiration, precisely because he's brought something new of value to the world. And in bringing this new value to the world, he has given not only the specific value, but the new means to produce other values. The value is what is created, and can't be separated from the creativity.

The new use of the term, though, denies that anything of value need be created. Instead, it concentrates on a non-essential: the fact that something new is the result. So the term is used to describe anything done by someone that hasn't been done before. If this were as far as the corruption of the word had gone, it would have been bad enough; but it's taken further.

Creativity, in its original sense, can be described as thinking outside of the box. The creator must solve a problem, and he needs to free his mind from artificial constraints that prevent him from seeing solutions to problems. There are puzzles that are based on this premise. One puzzle, with six matchsticks, asks you to create 4 equal size triangles with the matchsticks. No breaking the matchsticks, either. The solution is to think outside of the box, in this case, two dimensions. If you construct a pyramid, three matchsticks as the base, and the other three rising from the points up to a single tip, you solve the puzzle.

Thinking outside of the box. But again, the modern use of the term “creative” drops context, latching onto a non-essential. In this case, it's the unconstrained thinking process. And what thinking is the most “unconstrained”? That which is unconstrained by logic. Irrationality.

The new creativity is unconstrained by the results it's trying to accomplish, unconstrained by a proper methodology, unconstrained by any kind of structure. With this in mind, you can see how the child's crayon mess can be considered “creative”. It is unconstrained in every sense of the term, and the fact that nothing of value is generated is not a point of contention.

One result of this twisting of the word is that there appears to be a creative/analytical dichotomy on the rise. Those people without any real ability or thinking skills call themselves creative, to make their vice, irrationality, a virtue. And they don't like sharing the term with people who are logical, and happen to be creative in the original sense.

It just goes to show that people can be consistent if they want to be.

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