The Nature Of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, edited by Robert J. Sternberg
It took me a long while to read this book after having purchased it on the recommendation of a coworker of mine. After having read it, I have a rather mixed opinion on it. In general, I find creativity deeply interesting, and thought provoking, but I tend to find that a lot of people have some definite ulterior motives and axes to grind when it comes to researching and writing in the field to celebrate novelty for the sake of novelty and to support rather strident and misguided views of creation that seek to honor human creators as well as unintelligent processes that are purported to create information and to deny the creator His proper due. From what I have found so far, and this book is no exception, reading on creation typically and even inevitably involves serious questions of morality and religion as part of the legitimacy of the field, and to its credit at least some of the authors of these various essays are able to wrestle honestly and openly with some of the ambiguities that are involved in creativity and in how it is to be justified and supported. That is not to say that this book is perfect, but while it is uneven it does have much that is worthwhile.
With seventeen papers that take up more than 400 pages, this book is certainly a large one and seeks to provide a broad perspective of issues of creativity as they relate to psychology. The first part of the book contains an essay that looks at the conditions of creativity (I, 1). After that there are eight papers that discuss the role of the individual in creativity (II), with three psychometric papers that look at the nature of creativity shown in testing (2), putting creativity to work (3), and approaches to and definitions of creativity (4) as well as five essays that have cognitive approaches to creativity that look at problem solving and models and issues of process and freedom and constraints. The third part of the book contains seven essays that look at the role of the interaction between individual and environment in creativity (III), three of which look at case studies of creative lives, and four of which look at creative systems. Finally, the last paper discusses what we know about creativity, dealing with issues of integration, after which there is an author and subject index.
It is pretty easy to see both positive and negative aspects of this particular book. For example, some of the researchers recognize that human creativity consists in combinations of existing phenomena that may be novel, but that novelty is far more limited than has sometimes been stated. Others recognize the importance of diligent effort and the need to create a lot in order to create something that is worthwhile and lasting, while others point out the moral aspects of creation and that not all creativity can be considered to be “good,” and to the fact that creativity requires institutions and cultures that are able to recognize and legitimize what is created by someone. These are all on the better side of the papers here. Unfortunately, far too many papers fail to recognize the contradiction between celebrating design (even, in the case of language, unintentional design without a central authority) and believing in the design capacity of unintelligent processes, as is so often the case here. Ultimately, the proper study and celebration of design requires a moral worldview to judge novel content as being good or evil as well as proper respect and honor given to the Creator of the universe and of ourselves, and by those standards there is a lot that needs to be done before creation can be properly situated as a field of study.