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But think of the winning horse. In antiquity or a flying man such as you Chris I mean these are obviously at one time when you are near you but they reckon they're putting together a vibe you know already available. Now you turn to a more scientific material. Whoever created introduce the notion of a corpuscular theory of light could actually fall in a certain sense to have really put together ideas that were already available and on the new combination of I mean the idea of there being a particle which moves with various B but these particles would collide with other particles or they move in a straight line that they are reflected when they hit some kind of war that they are tracking these are familiar phenomena and then this theory then. And to be sure represented something that is novel. But I think one could say that in the case of
some of these theories they do involve a recombination of notions that were already available. On the other hand there Ira. Kind of normal creative activities which do seem to involve the introduction of some that correspond to this kind of a mutant gene that is into introducing a mutant idea which is not just the rearrangement of old ones. A low IQ is rather difficult to be sure which ideas are the source. Let me mention some that might be of this kind and I'm sure at one time it must have been a novel in the sand. You know the notion of proof that you will find it in geometry where you start out of a set of axioms and once you accept the axiom then everything on rows from the axiom is by the application of logical rules. This of course as far as we
know was a Greek invention. Nobody had it before the Babylonian use of mathematics gives you some mathematics. But the idea of proof of a rigorous logical proof was something that the best of our knowledge was the product of Greek genes. And. The doctor proof is nothing like any other you can think of sometimes say well if Iran is contained in the axioms but contain it on a spatial metaphor the sense in which a theorem is contained in the axiom is not like the sense in which this room contains this this me. Only by kind of metaphor we talk this way and so at one time it seems to me that the notion of our. Deductive proof was a mutant ID something that was brand new not a real ring.
Or take the notion. That it is when Newton introduced the idea of bodies tracking each other universities where the decisions were. And this happens in stand painting. That is one body acts upon another body in such a way that action takes no time whatsoever. This was apparently a novel idea which scandalized many of you as contemporaries and as a matter fighting self was unhappy. One of your friends. Our sponsor wrote when I asked him. Do you think that gravitation is an inherent part and inherent part of the body something that is intrinsic to something that is all true. No replied saying only a fool only a beginner in philosophy. But suppose that gravitation is an inherent property of matter. He hoped eventually that some explanation would be given for this. But the idea
of actually distances something that appeared to be very normal and to be a kind of the Newton idea. Now that looks much I think for the question as to what we mean by creativity and I indicated that creativity involves originality but it would have to be qualified in number of ways and creativity associated with discovery. In other cases perhaps not and that creativity could involve simply a combination of things that a lot in other cases introducing something that is and entirely unlike anything that had happened before. Let me turn Mary now to something that I will talk about very briefly namely the mechanism that are involving creative water or psychology. Now this question as many of you I'm
quite sure know it's been very much discussed by psychology and have been various theories have been suggestions as to how to work around for this creative process. But despite the fact that the subject has been of interest for so many years I think it is not an exaggeration to say that we know very little about process and very little about it is really famous clan. There are various theories that have been advanced. Let me very briefly mention three that have been employed. One of them is sometimes called an association is an explanation for creativity you know idea being that human being is being exposed to various sorts of things and experiences. Develop some ideas of one thing being connected with something else. Because these things really come together so like Pavlov's dog
you hear a bell and and you smell a smell and then when I hear the bell that brings to mind the smell of the food. And so in this way the connections are formed because of the experiences that individuals hack. And are disappearing. The creative mind is one which has the largest store of such associations or connections and that is what happens in a piece of mind that he has such a fund of connections. That he can then select much more readily than can mine who has a fewer number of such. It's connection. Now this doesn't really explain an awful lot in the first place. When a person does have the associations these might become so a bit you'll let me instead of being in a me too.
Novel creativity as a combination of ID and association is the counter not really explaining how do the blocks which prevent the development of new combinations really arise. Moreover and this is perhaps the crucial point. Even if you suppose now that the creative mind she likes from the association that it has already formed how do we explain the selection itself which is really the crucial question how the selections made. And we don't really have a clear answer. There's a second type of explanation is a kind of the Start Stop psychology that the creative mind transforms the idea that it has a problem to solve. For example if instead of sort of adding the body here and there it had time an initial insight into the total
structure. And then this initial insight somehow the guy who came in feeling in the air so that the stress hears upon having some sort of an insight into the structure. But then calling it an insight is simply to baptize it but doesn't really tell us as to how the inciter of pain a lot of psychological mechanisms are by which it is achieved. Moreover Wow this account might be fairly plausible in some cases. Name me if I want to go from A to B starting from a given situation I want to get to a certain objective reach a certain objective then I want to have some sort of a general overall picture of the situation and product in the mail. But this. Come out and tell us how these objects themselves are and see the entertain and they sometimes really are crucial
elements in the work of science and the third approach that I want to read you mention is a so-called psycho that dynamic approaches associate the name of Freud. And. I mean. So dynamic psychology in general where the general point is that the creativity that people engage in and have them at this is located in them in the unconscious mind. It doesn't appear on a conscious level and I'm a conscious level we are so. Bound by our habits and routines that we cannot free ourselves from these down that are have been developed. But in the in the unconscious The idea is can mean without strain and this is how the originality appear.
Now again this is kind of a dramatic formulation of what happened but really doesn't tell us much either because to say the least things happening in the unconscious is to baptize our ignorance and not to tell us how these things operate. Let me mention a kind of explanation that some mathematician gave to what created it in mathematics and studied by some mathematician themselves it was a very distinguished French mathematician is no longer alive. Jack Adam r. Was in this country during the Nazi occupation of France and he published a book while he was in this country called The Psychology of invention in the mathematical field and he and a number of mathematicians on how they got their big idea how they
got their solutions and how they got their important problem. In many cases we found the following that the people or some way or interest in a problem they worked hard at it got nowhere. Then they went to bear and in some fortunate cases they woke up with a solution. And then I don't mind. I was as well you see of course you have introduced the unconscious to explain this. It's all very nice but then what do we really know. Or take a different kind of an illustration. The great French mathematician Army Pronk great in a very famous essay which he describes his first contribution to mathematics. He said well he had a problem with the other which he went to and he
worked at it for several weeks and got nowhere. This was adopted as a patient. And then he went for a holiday and then on his way home from the holiday he stepped on a bus to take him from where he lived but was home and as he put his foot on the bus the solution flashed upon him. Well this is an interesting tidbit too as to how it is. Signature on the which this idea happened to Dupont Graber do we really know what went on I don't think we do. Let me get my other illustration of the sort of thing and then I'll turn to another matter. There was a very distinguished physiology. He was a German by birth he was a Nobel Prize winner in physiology and he received his Nobel Prize for having determined what is the process by means of
which. A stimulus passes along and he wants to I heard once tell the story but he has also published his account much briefer form than he did when when he told him and I thought you might be interested in it. If I took the liberty of reading it just one short passage in which he describes how he was able to establish the fact that the transmission of the Nevian powers has a chemical origin not an electronic origin of account of a mechanical one. And this is what he said in a call from the workshop of discovery and the man Dr. Otto. He died about two three years ago it was in his 80s.
He said the possibility of a chemical transmission of nervous impulses and considered before the time of my experiment. Accordingly one might bash be inclined to say that the idea of such a mechanism was in the air. I'll continue in the opinion that what may be in the air in time is not ideal here but rather bizarre. I generally use the possibilities of probability and I really mean is much more something much more concrete and I do in my opinion must already be the way to be followed in order to solve the problem. If in an age of 23 with the desire to paint the Madonna. I don't think one can call this an ID. He's got an idea only in the moment when his form the mental image of the type of Adama he wants to take consciously I never before had. The problem of the transmission of the nervous impulse. If there will always remain a mystery to me that I was
predestined and unable to find a mode of solving this problem. Consider for a decade in one of the most urgent ones in reality and what we will find is a more mysterious one I now tell you the story of how the discovery happened. And then I believe the Saturday one hundred twenty one. I woke up turned on the light. And jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of paper. We had some kind of a dream and I fell asleep again. It got to me at 6 o'clock in the morning that tonight I had written down something most important. But I was unable to decipher the score. And so it was a great actor. And here they were the most the day in my whole scientific life. I remember hearing you say that you left out one morning without food and wandered for something like 14 hours trying to think of what it was that he had.
He dreamt he came home dog. Why would he want to bed. And I continue from the reading room the next night however I woke again at 3 o'clock and I remembered what it was this time I did not take any risk. I got up immediately went to the laboratory made the experiment on a frog heart which he had described earlier and at five o'clock the chemical transmission of nerve impulse was conclusively proved. So the process of discovery something that you know really there and about some of you may know a book that was published I think embody an athlete years ago biopic Kessler the novelist I say is called The Art of discovery in which you offer a theory of his own and I think if you look at it
you find that. It remains as much a mystery after some 600 pages. I get why the book is interesting and full of my stories and anecdotes. But I don't believe that you will get a really clear answer to the question. Now let me turn to to my theory a question that after this problem with creativity in science. Name me at what point in science that creativity is a rock. Now there are very many points I just want to restrict myself to three in number and point of fact. But I want to say just a few words by way of introduction to this. What are the objectives of the aims of science. I think we want in this connection to distinguish between the individual moguls our
scientists and the large overall object years of the scientific enterprise. The individual motives of the scientists might differ. A man might be motivated to make money. And so he goes into science because he thinks this is going to be you ever get here. You might be motivated by saying that you can get a Nobel Prize. These are models but we scientists are not to be identified with the model. I mean different individuals have different motives. But by and large I think if you think of science as a institution that has been going on. For many many centuries that in the main I think you could say that the object of our science. Is to find explanations or to find some understanding of the way in which various parts of the world work whether it is in animal nature or whether
it is the animal part. And I think the importance of explanation and understanding even though in many cases the object is a sign of inquiry are narrowed. Because even when the object is up. Sort of I mean when we deal with applied engineering for example especially in our own day. Even me Cheavens of Applied Science cannot be a pain unless they release some understanding of how different parts of nature operate. So I'm supposing our the aim of science is really to achieve some kind of an understanding. Now the second point of view that has to be say about the locus of creativity in science is that. Every kind of inquiry controlled by some sort of a problem that
if one doesn't get investigated in the blue but one investigate in order to find the answers to a fairly definite problem the question. And the question is one question about the kind of the problem that scientists discuss it is what the problem of the scientists work out. Now. Here in NC a very difficult year in part is determined by the intellectual and social climate in which you saw. I happen to be born on which we operate so close now. I think it would be absurd to suppose that you had been born in Kenya to live in Central Africa. In the 16th century. That he would have been concerned with astronomical optical problems I mean the actual climate and the social requirements who are not out of
whack. So imparted by the side and the kind of idea the prevalent but in part are also determined by the personal inclination of science. Natural Newton was interested in physics gravity in as normal optics he was also interested in chemistry but he was never successful in getting anywhere. Chemistry. He had no interest in linguistics although he was interested in the Bible. And made a study of the Bible so and so. Man a Christian inclination but I think the point I want to make is that there is a great creative element involved in finding problems. When things well it's very easy to find problems. But it isn't. And as a matter of fact one of the difficulties a graduate student in finding some kind of a problem.
I wish he could work in writing and hopefully they come to instruct and I for some suggest it. In many cases instruct in exactly the same boat and he has no ideas himself. But what I think is certainly true that science as we have organized today places a great emphasis upon the ability to think or significant problem. And so one important aspect of a creative activity of society is to think of problems. That will not be only of sort of personal interest but will have some significance for the further development the science and moral will be kind of a problem that I manage within the year.
The means available at the town that is you know a long time ago people thought of flying to the moon and so one might then somehow generate a problem when we had a problem getting to the moon or we might have the problem of getting to one of the very distant stars. Well today the problem of going to the moon is one that is at least viable but say when I let it rot a problem how do you get to the to one of the stars. This is not a significant problem correctly at the moment. And similarly in different areas of science to find problems that in some way expanding here threaten our lives and in a significant way that it will be in our knowledge or will enable us to correct you or establish some sort of a connection between what we already know in one area and what we
already know as a modern area and bring about some kind of a fusion and synthesis. These are the kind of problem the people would like to go to to find and to be able to find the means to make a creative contribution to the work of science. Even if you do not find them and you've heard this Lego Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University as he spoke on the topic creativity and science. This was another program of the series. Peace love and creativity. The hope of mankind. On our next program already M-Fer sterling professor of French literature at Yale University will discuss. Creativity in literature. These programs are recorded at the Cooper Union in New York City by station WNYC. The series is made available to the station by the National Education of Radio Network.
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Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Creativity in science, part two
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features the first part of a lecture by Ernest Nagel, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Nagel, Ernest, 1901-1985
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-28 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:50
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Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in science, part two,” 1968-06-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
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