The constraints of habit: craft, repetition, and creativity

Ross, Wendy and Glăveanu, Vlad (2023) The constraints of habit: craft, repetition, and creativity. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. ISSN 1572-8676


The nature of craft creativity has often been ignored in research which focuses on innovative and novel ideas and thought processes. This view of creativity casts the repetitive nature of craft as antithetical to the disruptive nature of genuine creativity. Drawing on combined enactivist and pragmatist accounts of habits and on a focused cognitive ethnography of a wooden bowl turner, this paper explores the nature of the constraints wrought by habitual action. Habitual action will be shown to be less repetitive than may be initially assumed because of the uncertainty inherent in working with both the wood which forms the initial material and the tools necessary to transform it. Rather, this paper proposes habitual learned movements as an important concept in a pragmatist-informed theory of creativity since they mark the skilled co-ordination of material, tool and maker, at once constraining and enhancing the creative craft process.

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