Creative ignorance

Ross, Wendy (2022) Creative ignorance. In: Embodied, extended, ignorant minds. Synthese Library. Studies in Epistemology, Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (463). Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 37-57. ISBN 978-3-031-01921-0


Much research in creativity proceeds from the hylomorphic model, that is the no-tion that the creator imposes a preconceived form on inert matter and a detailed plan is followed. In such a model, the unknowability of material engagement is erased to the extent that the creative process is often reduced to the genesis of the creative plan, the spark of insight as it were. This model is being increasingly ques-tioned and there is a steadily growing research literature demonstrating how en-gagement with an uncertain material and socially rich world shapes and forms cognitive processes and that rather than a linear and rational model, there is a deep knowing-through-doing at the heart of creative thinking. This chapter ex-tends this literature in two complementary ways. First, I shall discuss how material objects in the world serve to scaffold our understanding precisely by revealing our underlying ignorance, an ignorance that cannot be revealed apart from through engagement with the world. This engagement leads to knowing and understanding which reverses the traditional direction of knowledge. I will suggest that this un-knowing through doing marks both scientific and artistic creative thinking even if it is often erased in the former. Second, I will make the stronger claim that in the case of artistic creativity, the ignorance which the process of material engagement inspires in the artist is both generative and necessary and, further, constitutes the heart of the creative act.

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