Chronicle of Higher Ed on cultivating creativity

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Dan Berrett on “Creativity: a Cure for the Common Curriculum”:

Creativity, when conceived of as a thought process rather than an inherent attribute or talent, has theoretical roots in psychology and philosophy.

J.P. Guilford, the psychologist, drew a distinction between two forms of thinking, convergent and divergent. With its frequent use of standardized tests, education today tends to skew heavily toward convergent thinking, which emphasizes the importance of arriving at a single correct answer. Divergent thinking, however, requires coming up with alternative theories and ideas, sometimes many of them, to produce a useful solution.

Guilford devised tests of divergent thinking, including one in which the test taker invents as many uses as possible for a paper clip. Children typically clobber adults on this test, says Mr. Fisher.

“Humans are naturally playful, creative beings,” he says. “We’re doing something to kids in grade school that drums the creativity out of them.”

The philosophical antecedents harken to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Charles Sanders Peirce, the American pragmatist, drew on the forms of inductive and deductive logic categorized by Aristotle in his Prior Analytics. Peirce added a third strain of logic, which he often called abductive.

Each has its advantages. Deductive reasoning confers a high degree of certainty in its conclusions. Inductive logic works well when data are readily observable. Abductive logic, Peirce posited, relies on inference to make creative leaps in situations in which information is incomplete. It yields a large number of possible answers.

See also: Science, humanities, design: The three cultures.

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