Quora answer: If schools kill creativity, how do we fix it?

It is not just schools that are against creativity but many institutions within our society. Only some people are allowed to be creative in our society, so this is a general problem in society, not just schools, but schools are the place where we try hardest to stamp out creativity.

When I first went to LSE to study I wanted to do a sociology of creativity, but I found that at that time there was not enough material to do a dissertation on that subject. So I switched to Philosophy of Science and did a dissertation titled The Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence based on the notion of Emergence in GH Mead’s Philosophy of the Future. I studied what allowed emergent events to occur in the Western Scientific tradition, linking that to the different kinds of Being discovered in Continental Philosophy. The basic idea was that for an Emergent Event to occur at any scope (given, fact, theory, paradigm, episteme, ontos, existence, absolute) it had to go through all the meta-levels of Being to be genuinely emergent, otherwise it was artificially emergent and contributed to the nihilism in our worldview rather than making a non-nihilistic distinction possible.

Now if you look at the problem of Creativity within Society from the view point of Emergent Events, i.e. in terms of inexplicable discontinuous changes within the history of our worldview, rather than just as something that individuals randomly do occasionally which is to be creative, then you see that the institutions in our society are geared to stop emergent events from happening and that is one of the reasons that creativity is stifled actively in our institutions. In other words there is good reason to stifle creativity if you want stability and continuity in institutions. Because emergent changes are incredibly disruptive to our lives. Thus one of the best ways to look at creativity is the way my advisor David Martin looks at the sacred in religious institutions as they function in society. The sacred is a dangerous thing and the religious institutions are designed to protect us from it and to channel it into society in such a way that it can be contained and used as a resource without destroying things. Thus religious institutions have the effect of stifling the individuals access to the sacred. Individuals have to go outside of those institutions to access the sacred on their own and they can be harshly punished for doing so, yet some people are allowed to access the sacred if it is within institutional guidelines and are rewarded for doing so like monks and priests. Notice that monks are isolated from the rest of society in their pursuit of the sacred. However, if someone does manage to access the sacred and is recognized as genuinely doing so outside normal institutions, then quickly new institutions are built up around them supposedly to carry on that legacy but more specifically to channel this new outburst of the sacred so that it does not get out of control.

There is a direct analogy to the Sacred in our channeling of Emergent Events in our society, and what we call individual access to the sources of emergent events is creativity. Schools is just one example of the way institutions try to stifle creativity in most areas but encourage it in safe areas like Art which is disconnected from everyday life sufficiently that we can handle creative expression in those areas. If everyone was maximally creative all the time it could be very disruptive because emergent events might happen more often. An emergent event can be seen as when a creative act leads to unintended side effects and creates a cascade of discontinuous change that disrupts the continuity of institutions and our daily lives. However, what is missing is the fact that it is not just creativity that leads to Emergent Events. It is as if they were random Black Swan events that happen even if people are working their hardest not to allow any changes to occur. In other words, Emergent Events can be seen as a function of the working of the worldview rather than something that is solely the responsibility of the individuals being creative in spite of all institutional safeguards which attempt to prevent that. Emergent Events are going to happen one way or another, in spite of everything we might do to stop them because they are a function of the way the worldview is set up in the West that there are nihilistic extremes, and one of those nihilistic extremes is emergence and nihilism as duals themselves. Just like Sacred and Profane are nihilistic duals there are also nihilistic duals at the meta-level that have to do with the generation of nihilism itself.

When we see that the worldview has as its fundamental activity the production of nihilism in every possible sphere and in every possible form mostly due to the fact that the worldview is centered around the fundamental concept of Being (which is unique to Indo-European languages), then it is possible to see that emergences can only be seen as gestalt figures on the ground of nihilism, and the very mechanism that produces emergence is the same mechanism that intensifies nihilism. Emergence is an activity that resets the background nihilism and clears it so that the process can start over in a different way. Genuine Emergence only occurs if all the kinds of Being (Pure, Process, Hyper, Wild and Ultra) are conjuncted so that they present a “face of the world”. When this occurs then the background nihilism on which this face of the world is seen is cleared, and we start over with the production of nihilism again. Nihilism is intensified by the generation changes that are not of not fully emergent events. The same mechanism that produces the genuine emergent events, i.e. the kinds of Being in Indo-european society, is the mechanism that intensifies the background nihilism that is produced in society. Heidegger relates this production of Nihilism to Technology saying that the essence of Technology is not technological, but is nihilism. But I think that nihilism is at the core of a lot of different aspects of our world, not just technology.

Nihilism is the production of artificially extreme duals that conflict with each other or contradict each other or are contrary, paradoxical, or absurd, but that can be seen from a different point of view reached by an Anagogic Swerve to be exactly the same thing in different guises. This is how Stanley Rosen defines it in his book Nihilism where he contrasts the nihilistic duals of Wittgenstein and Heidegger and shows that they are both nihilistic themselves. Nihilism causes a loss of meaning and a loss distinction and can lead to alienation and anomie. But note that nihilism is precisely the collapse of conflicting opposites into their background though the loss of the distinction between them. Thus Nihilism and Emergence are duals. Nihilism creates the background on which the new distinction of the Emergent Event can be created. Emergence is the arising of a new non-nihilistic distinction (difference that makes a difference ala Bateson) which produces a whole new set of facts, theories, a new paradigm, a new episteme, etc. that changes the lifeworld in a fundamental way. These discontinuous changes arise seemingly independently as Black Swan events. But we only recognize these Black Swan events on the basis of normal probabilities and conservative risk calculations concerning the way we think things will unfold given the current order. We do not think clearly most times beyond extrapolations of what is currently the state of affairs. But N. Taleb does not identify the the mechanism that generates the Black Swan events. That mechanism is in the fundamental structure of the worldview itself and is represented in the fragmentation of Being within our Indo-european worldview. The nihilistic extreme opposites of Emergence and Nihilism are meta-nihilism as opposed to ordinary nihilism like in the difference between the sacred and the profane. In other word the nihilistic opposites of emergence and nihilism is an extreme intensification of nihilism by raising it to the meta-level where it is the nihilism of nihilism itself, what Heidegger would call the essence of nihilism, which following his other idea about technology, would say is nothing nihilistic. In other words, the dynamic that produces the intensification of nihilism also erases the background of nihilism that makes it possible to see the emergent event. But the emergent event comes with a non-nihilistic distinction which is produced when we see a face of the world. And this non-nihilistic distinction makes it possible to clear the background and start over with a new organization at some scope in society, and this is the way that our society renews itself, and dynamically changes, and thus what makes it resilient, leading to new things, concepts, ways of doing things etc that are innovative and novel and push us into new realms with new capabilities.

What this means for schools is that if we do not understand our own worldview and its fundamental dynamic we are not going to be able to change the institutions which are geared to stifle creativity until we realize that there are good reasons to do so. They are trying to cut off the possibility of emergent events happening down stream by conditioning the children to avoid being creative at all costs, while at the same time valorizing it, and channeling it in certain directions like the arts were it is safe to be creative. Don’t you see that the anti-creativity of the institutions is the nihilistic opposte of our idea of the genius who is always creative, which is allowed for certain individuals but is denied to most. The very idea of creativity is nihilistic itself, i.e. it is too extreme and is counterpoised to the stagnation of society that tries to stifle it. What we need to do is make a non-nihilistic distinction and produce something that is not so extreme as “creativity of the genius” as an ideal so it is not counterpoised against the stagnation and degeneration of the worldview in so many other respects that makes the genius stand out as a beacon of light in the darkness. Both the darkness and light come from the same source, and so if we see the source instead of the darkness and light then there is some hope to avoid the nihilism of the projection of the creative person against the backdrop of the stogy and uncreative masses within our society. The key to that is trying to think in nondual ways rather than ways that make ultimately false distinctions between nihilistic opposites like creativity (differences that make a difference) and and the conditioned masses that are schooled to be uncreative (repetition) [cf Deleuze Difference and Repetition].

So my ideal school would teach people about this fundamental dynamic in the worldview between emergence and nihilism and would teach people nondual approaches to making non-nihilistic distinctions in their lives. Then we can be creative (make differences that make differences) or cling to stability of existing culture and social structure as appropriate.

For nonduality see http://nondual.net

For the fragmentation of Being see The Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void at http://works.bepress.com/kent_pa….

For dissertation on emergence see http://archonic.net/disab.html

For the application of the theory of emergence to design see Emergent Designhttp://emergentdesign.net




Posted February 4, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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