Wednesday, August 24, 2011

EPSY 8220: Theories of Creativity [Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Galton]

As a part of my Theories of Creativity class at UGA this semester, we are required to read and respond to theorists who have written about inspiration and creativity. I thought that it would be interesting to repost my responses on this blog for those who are interested in learning more about these people!


This artwork is by Angelica Kauffmann, titled "Self Portrait Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting" (1791) It is a visual representation of Kauffmann choosing between her two loves, art and music. She had an aptitude for both. If there was ever a woman who had divine inspiration, this would be her!

We read 4 selections: Theories by Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and Francis Galton. I want to begin by summarize each theorist, which will help organize my thoughts-

Plato believed in external or divine inspiration, such as muses and deities who intervene with specific individuals. He comically uses the word "Bacchic" to describe these individuals, I guess in an attempt to compare their creativity with drunkenness, or some type of entranced stupor. He thought that poets (or the "creative") were interpreters of the gods.

Aristotle talks about the connection of nature to art and spontaneity. Creativity, he believed, was a mixture of thought and luck. I believe that he was insinuating a Freudian subconscious belief of taking in beauty without realizing it. I.e. We recognize beauty in our daily lives (the trees, etc) and that creativity is taking these realizations and letting them manifest into new ideas. Therefore, Aristotle believed that nature inspires creativity, and he thought that a little bit of luck was involved in the process, too.

Kant thought that creativity was spontaneous. I think that he believed in a more Aristotelian belief of creativity (versus Platonic) because he focused so much on the aesthetic experience. I noticed that he used the word "imagination", and said that nature (aka a deities' work) inspires creativity. In this respect, he is more Platonic. Kant is a nice medium between Plato and Aristotle. Kant says that "genius" (aka creative people) are people who are inspired by nature.

Galton builds on Kant's idea of genius, but believes in this trait as hereditary. I am amused that he fails to take into account value systems of the families that he studied. Galton believes that people are born with genius, specific aptitudes that are passed on from generation to generation. Contextual information: Galton was Darwin's cousin. See any traces of evolutionary theory in his ideas?]

I find that a common thread linking the four is the idea that creativity cannot be developed, and that it is either divinely inspired or hereditary. The four transition smoothly from one another, beginning with divine intervention (Plato) to respect for the divine's creation (Aristotle) to Kant, who binds the two, to Galton, who specifically speaks about the idea of "genius" with respect to Kant.

What do you find as a common thread between these four theorists?

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite painting of all time. I love everything about it from the delicate, lovely colors, to the facial expressions, to the meaning. This was a woman who was confident of her talents, in the prime of her life, appreciative of her power over men and her surroundings, facing a decision that was not so hard after all. After all, you can paint and still play, or play and still paint, so it was a joyous decision. The whole painting just radiates joy to me. If ever I were filthy, fabulously rich, I'd have a Kauffman hanging on my mantle, just to pay hommage to on a daily basis.

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