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A. Creative mind. Will Institute cooperative broadcasting Council presents. The Creator. As a number one. The National Association of educational broadcasters series The creative mind. Produced by WGBH our fam in Boston under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center. These conversations explore the creative process as it pertains to the American artist and scientist in the 20th century. Guest for this program Lois Finkelstein Reinhold Niebuhr and Milton see now. And here is our host and commentator for the creative mind. Lyman Bryson.
In this series we're going to explore a mystery when we get through it will still be a mystery. It's been a mystery for a long time. And it ought to be easy to understand why it's a mystery since artists and creative thinkers and science everyone who has an inventive mind uses a special form for the expression of these ideas. If you could explain in words what it is that he tries to do in stone if he's an architect in sound of his a musician in words if he's a poet or a novelist I think you do that in words. He wouldn't have to use his art he wouldn't have to build buildings or write music or do dancing he just tell us about it. Even a novelist would tell us the kind of novel he was going to write instead of writing the novel. Of course they can't do that because the essential thing about a creative personality is that there is some form of expression which gives him special access to our imagination gives him a special power over us and it's only that form. Well then one might say why talk to artists or talk by talk to them about their art.
There are two answers to this question. One is that if they talk about their art they might arouse interest in some of us in things that we otherwise might pass over or think not deserving of our attention. Talking to an artist about his work sometimes opens up doors which otherwise stay closed. But there's another thing too about these people these creative artists and scientists. And that is if they can describe to us the conditions under which they work. The things that they think are necessary to make them productive. The things that seem to small their past toward great achievement if they can tell us about these things we might create in our culture in our civilization conditions that would produce more at least in the way of result. Given the potentialities which we have probably as well as any other nation it might help us to salvage some of the gifted children. It's surprising a little disheartening to those who watch the growth of children to say how often in their younger years when they're when they're quite young and life is fresh to
them. How they are inventive imaginative and then we educate and as we say we train them we bring them into contact with the civilization in which they have to live. And somehow or other the creativeness seems to dry up. What's the reason for this. Is it because we don't educate them properly that we don't reward them with what we should give them that we don't encourage them in the right way. Perhaps if we know more about how inventive minds in the arts in the sciences work we might know better how to have more of them and be better staffed with geniuses in a civilization like ours where we have great need of inventiveness and imagination in order to begin this series on the broadest possible basis. We decided to discuss with three philosophers the socket of experience in which one might expect to find. Creativeness what kind of life gives a man creativeness.
We asked Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr the Reverend Ronald Niebuhr who's Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary famous theologians and writer on political subjects. Rabbi I think all Stein who is chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Professor Melton Naam of Bryn Mawr. We ask these men not as creative thinkers although they are creative in their own lands but as scholars as men who have spent their lives studying the. Way in which a great civilization is built. And studying the ideals out of which artists and scholars. And scientists have made the things by which we live and which we strive for because after all the artist especially serves the ideals of his time. He helps to create them. He certainly criticizes them but he serves them. And what we want to do in talking with the with Dr. Niebuhr and Rabbi I think will Stein and Professor Nom was to find out if we could some of
those basic ideas which philosophers have placed as the circumstance for creativeness. I began by raising the question with Professor Niebuhr as to whether or not it wouldn't be useful to examine historically the idea of freedom that makes creative action possible. What can one say that. The creative impulse in man is rooted in his freedom his freedom has at least two dimensions. It is the freedom from the capacity for making general concepts. So I will say to transcend. The particularities of nature by. Conceptual images. But this is only one part of the freedom the mathematical or logical rational part of the freedom but man as a self is an individual and he has this is the second. And I'm actually has a. Unique freedom to transcend himself. And to transcend his mind of the world
and out of this dimension of freedom for the symbolic speaking that comes our and religion rather than science. Plus wait I'm wondering what kind of creation we're talking about at this moment if we're talking about the creation of these. Specific fields like art science. And philosophy and government and government it's. Called economics. So of course is one matter my mind runs more or they create the list which is common to all human beings which is the creation of a good life. So I imagine that that is as old as the human race itself. And that comes out of a sense of something beyond man. There is a sense of service. And the right of people to say what you want. Her remark about us said the medievalist. Like Michelangelo were able to create an enduring memory because
they blew the rustle of the obviously does not suggest that we go back to belief in God. But he really has no other suggestions to make. Isn't he always felt us to find some kind of self-transcendence which would not cause a belief but would still be a transcendence of self this second dimension. Mr. Miller is going to say that in this far as a self transcends itself it's bound to have to sense a system of values beyond its interests more inclusive than simpers This is the root of morality and religion but how many is with its interest basic. Well you know yes but it seems to me the role it seems to me really this is a this is the mirror the question on the one side you've got a theory of rational theory of truth. Which is good. Quick last on the other side you've got a theory of originality which is I think quite modern and comes I think directly out of the question and we break tradition and I think it comes directly out of the notion that God is completely unconditioned and
man is created in His image and God has created a man has free will the Greek had no conception of free will they had no conception of freedom of choice which means completely condition free and I think that these things have come out in hard are extremely important for our own civilization precisely because the common sense ethics politics and so on have been really done to death. They they're no longer alive if you say that freedom is a part of the general problem of originality in art. I think there are new ways of dealing with it I think it suggests different ways of creativity I think it energizes people's wills. I think it hasn't been it hasn't become so dogmatic and hidebound there simply because the language of art is different and can be used in this way and as far as the notion of transcendence is concerned it seems to me that what you really got here is an opposition of a theory of free choice and originality and I think that it gives rise to two quite different. The first choice I think makes
our world an intelligible world in surprise it can. Lead to a kind of reflection. But originality leads to the value of novelty and individuality and this is what we're always after we want these two things we want we want to know where we are. So we can set up a place where we try to rationally but we want to be individuals and we want to go beyond that and if this is a problem in creativity is the problem of how we can be people with with good will and free will. At the same time intelligible people who know the conditions under which we live. I think that's an excellent distinction. Rice will mention of freedom giving us the structure of excess. We transcend our own situation by ignoring the structures and then there is this they tional freedom which you say provides for originality which was begun and I think you're quite right in saying this is basically there's an ascension between the Hill and the conveyor broke with the exception of Socrates who doesn't quite fit in what there is seems to me that
the theory of God is a creator and of man in the image of God is really the illustration of freewill. And the notion of a cosmic maker and harder and harder someone who works in matter which he doesn't create. And after ideas which he does create his notion of the condition. Well I was trying to get smarter and tried to get. More on the basis of create He says I'm trying to work. Through. That. Creation comes out of a certain moral discipline. And it's not possible in a world in which that moral discipline is lacking. Now how this moral discipline. May result from a transcendent vision. But isn't it also possible that the vision can only come to people who are morally disciplined. And one of the reasons that we have so little great creational our days is that there is no present and there is a transcendent vision because everyone is
afraid that if he got it he would have to change his whole way of life and his whole commitment. So I thought in a way we are the sort of vicious circle here we are avoiding the discipline because it's very hard that prevents us from having the transcendent vision and effort and finances from being transcendent the creative as we could be take America as individuals America as a nation requires from the cost. I was creation by the by the by the route. Now I would say that what purser now myself in two different context yours at the heart of the creativity of our Western civilization. I think it was probably ensure that our Western civilization had both the rational and the existential if you will. A. Conception of the of the structures which we must obey the structures of reality and the ultimate vision of a transcendent God
did always come by. So that they have we have the two bases of. Freedom in the two bases of creativity in the Greek and in the break with roots of our culture. I see something here. It's seems to me that Mr thinker Stein suggested a way in which they combine dynamically Mr. Niebuhr his paradox if I misunderstood him that it's only when you have. Visit your self into a set of disciplinary morals that you can prophetically transcend them and create the new markers that you have to be a part of the system before you can break it up. Now this if it's true in relation to the prophets and the good life. I would say is curiously exemplified in the life of practically all great artists who become very very expert in the techniques of their trade. Before they transcend the techniques of their predecessors nearly all the great artists were great technicians. They didn't discard
they learned and transcended the techniques of their predecessors. And this seems to me to be a parallel with great interest wouldn't you say. The bison the one love the difficulties of Modern Art the subtle but much about oppression is that is that he saw. Her need to be original. That it doesn't even take trouble to know what has been done before and therefore can it have to achieve originality because he refuses to try to learn. Or to master the skills that have already been developed. Let me quote a man of very great knowledge in our field. A friend of a number of us who died not very many weeks ago. Francis Taylor who one time when I was walking with him through the metropolitan when he was director of that was talking about Picasso. And he said People think that because so just sort of wandered freely through the method he knew everybody's method so well that he could caricature practically every great technique there ever
was in his originality lay. Not not as a matter of cause and effect but was founded upon a miraculous control of techniques of every kind. Well I would if I want to bring with us for your science journal emphasis upon the vision of the creation the discipline which is the basis of the credulity of the moment but I. Question his pessimism about modern culture I know that. Some of modern culture runs into the sand because it has no sense of tradition discipline and vision. Nevertheless. One has to recognize that what people call modern secularism is partly partly a protest against false religious visions. We say that what we want is what God wants and what's God's will. So I'm inclined to regard modern secularism not as the root of all evil but as one of the. Prophetic by products of our
culture both Greek and break that is always in tension between the historical facts and the ultimate. Now what what do we say what do we have to set. About the. Psychology of creativity about the way that kind of personality that we would try to develop that long. How raw materials in order that they could do these things couldn't just say that you can't go into your original The only thing I'm going to be is that there be a discipline in the great traditions of art science and religion that are being disciplined so that the original one be merely capricious. Then after the discipline has been established then you gotta trust. To the. Creativity of the human spirit there will be an original person come up here are the scientists and so forth. But you can't guarantee that you've been gone t and the ground. And the soil out of which you're a real originally made a murderer rather than
capricious individual with a solid basis that can be transcended. But we're told by all kinds of critics many of them of course this just leads to a kind of Byzantine static society that you have so much discipline you can't have any originality I would agree with you but what do you say to a person I think one of the things you say to him is that nobody can be can make something or you know state or in a community or in art or in ethics or anything else unless that making is not only intelligent but it's also original I mean these things are not mutually exclusive except in there there are limits. And so that if a man makes sure he makes. Timely anything the story sense and or a symphony it depends upon where in the line between these two extremes. He thought it through I said great if you can teach him the technique. That is rational and intelligible. Then you've offered him the tools by which you can become original He may not have the capacities but he's never completely intelligent or intelligent never produces anything completely undone but he never produces anything completely original.
He always does something which is individuality has him. So that then you have to work on that basis. Now in archive. The whole family structure. The whole community structure. Makes against the emergence of creative minds of truly creative minds. Because a young person. Is. Brought under the greatest possible pressure to produce quick we're really giving him very little with which to fight the enormous pressures far greater than the time before which are brought to bear upon him in our time smaller creativeness. And one of the interesting things to me when you think. That. In 1787. Three million Americans what really happened in America is we reproduce the Constitutional Convention. I don't think a hundred and fifty seven million Americans could produce the Constitutional Convention today. The deal with the problems which confront us. That kind of wisdom
kind of ability to create a lasting document to deal with the compromises that have reproduced. To really contribute a great document. To the world. Well I don't see it. In there that I think that perhaps is the worst and I don't see that as a mission we are not creating and you're rejecting all ideas it's biological or something like that it lies in the nature of our society that the potential talents of this order do not emerge. Let's put it like this our interests our interests in annual automobile models. Is symbolic of that contemporaneous us and the. Passion for conference gadgets and so forth that makes for the world garcon and I we're not talking about Western culture in science talking about the American culture and I think he's quite right as an extreme example of western culture. Mr. Bryson looked at me raise a question that was really to my mind the talking. I myself
limit the discussion to a very narrow area namely America as they were pointed out. But as he was talking I asked myself Where are the creative minds of other countries. Who are comparable to those of the past. The other words I don't think we're the only nation that is relatively stirred so to speak. Everybody else seems to be this in the same situation. And is this perhaps something which we ought to give a great deal of thought to namely that the world. Is emulating our country at its worst. And that the best minds all over the world are turning to technology and industry at this time. Completely absorbed. In the in the better life in the term in the material sense which of course isn't terribly important matter from the point of view of our own
religious traditions. But never the less. It is destructive. If it becomes monopolistic. Well it seems to me that a culture that could produce at the same time a castle and Frank Lloyd Wright. Would not be treated with such pessimism as we have created I think that we naturally think of the great period of the renaissance of quarantine in Italy but this is pretty extraordinary. One wouldn't expect that but we have and do produce great things and I think I have a feeling somehow that we're on the right track. I think perhaps we're forgetting the creativeness are the creator who remain the really creative spirit of the past I think is to a great extent. They are no matter. The amount of this person. Who gave himself all that he could. And really affected the community. And he was the worm of Jacob that the prophet speaks about. There was a he didn't write me books. He just was a
saint. And if I rattled off the names of the 30 or 40 great men. Who lived at the end of the 19th century beginning of the 20th century not one of their names would be recognized by 90 percent of the American Jews. And of course without direct like 100 percent of the other Americans I wouldn't deny what you're saying but I think that we have gotten elaboration of the idea of craziness and creativity to deal too much with the arts and the humanities and the expense of. Creativeness in building communities. Now the big communities were not created in the way that these small communities where not only are we ourselves but take the difference between the Greeks and the Romans the Greeks had this great artistic gift and scientific and philosophical. But they didn't have the gifts that the Romans had of building a great imperial community. I just call that greatness too and noticed in spite of my
pessimism about American culture say what is valid in American culture is that we. And the British before us have had this creativity ability. Relatively just communities. Maybe one of the things that we coming out of our discussion list is coming to my mind is that. The fundamental question in our country today there always was is character education. Does a person who attends one of our schools for the number of years emerge a better human be in the sense that he would consider his life well spent if he did something creative. Though he was. A failure in every other respect. I can't believe that the country that hasn't had a nation has known. How to Change a corner grocery store into a supermarket chain. And to develop the General Motors Corporation. Isn't capable of getting the
education to all its young people on the same level that Oxford and Cambridge did at their best. Now if it doesn't do it it's because it doesn't put its mind as effectively to education as it does to the business of general rules. Well I think the one thing that comes out is that theology theology is more practical philosophy. The other thing it seems to me is this what we seem to have forgotten is that. If we do have the power or capacity of being free we've got to learn to accept its consequences and a lot of those are very pleasant and if you're given as they should as Genesis says if you're given dominion over the earth with all of these living things given that you've got responsibilities and it seems to me that if we can make that clear it's extremely important you get no rights to the movies and you can't solve these problems and you can't solve them in theory but it seems to me extremely important that we talk as we do from all of our points of view from the point of view of the artist. Sculpting the law school the
teacher of religion and in some sense trying to get a meeting of minds because we can say we've got to learn to live with it. Well I think there's a general agreement which would be defined like this tension between technology and culture. And the dangers. To culture or technology have a passion for protecting our technological achievement. Second is the tension between excellence and bigness. There we one point we're still disagree is when Finkelstein suggests that and a nation which can build supermarkets can do equally relevant just puts his mind to having an education for everybody in different order of different order of achievement and that's precisely the problem. So I'd say in this
part we don't agree. Well we haven't time to argue that out I think I'm on. With two or three simple oceans present a logical philosopher and I see. Some balance ought to be struck here because so many of the. Of people who are thinking hardest about what's wrong with America take a positivistic point of view. Let me let me speak from that. Point of view for a moment. Not philosophically but the positivistic in the sense of being technical about this it seems to me that you have shown very clearly here although nobody has specifically said. Where I was in technology and perhaps in science all of this is dealt with. But certainly in technology the inventive and imaginative mind can exhaust the possibilities of his problem without any sense of value commitment or general philosophy of the world or anything else. He doesn't need it. But when you get into any of the greater regions of the imagination or human creativity the arts philosophy religion anything that he values life or judge's life then you've got to have a
content of value. And we are making a mistake and I think this is implied in what Mr. Niebuhr just said we're making the profile on philosophical mistake in our culture thinking that the same kind of effort the positivistic effort if you want to call it that. That succeeds to the limit in technology and goes very far. Science is not sufficient in the sidewalks or in the evaluative aspects of life and therefore those tend to be. Technically brilliant but empty and satisfactory they're adequate. And the young are unsaid because they don't realize that in this aspect of man's life. He's got to go after something bigger than himself than the Creator. Conversation number one in a series exploring the creative process as it pertains to the American artist and scientist in the 20th century. Host for the creative mind Lyman Bryson producer for the series Jack the Summerfield with William Cadmus
Creative mind
Man the creator
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features guests Milton Nahm, Louis Finkelstein, and Reinhold Niebuhr.
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This series, hosted by Lyman Bryson, presents radio essays about the creative process for the American artist and scientist in the 20th century.
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Guest: Nahm, Milton C. (Milton Charles), 1903-1991
Guest: Finkelstein, Louis, 1895-1991
Guest: Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971
Host: Bryson, Lyman, 1888-1959
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-44-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:45
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Chicago: “Creative mind; Man the creator,” 1964-03-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2021,
MLA: “Creative mind; Man the creator.” 1964-03-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2021. <>.
APA: Creative mind; Man the creator. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from