What’s the opposite of creativity?

Hegel, 1770–1831

Stu­dents of the great Ger­man philoso­pher Hegel are famil­iar with his notion of the dialec­ti­cal process. It is com­monly summed up as the way a pre­vail­ing the­sis is con­fronted by an antithe­sis, which even­tu­ally leads to a syn­the­sis. This can be applied to larger cul­tural think­ing, his­tor­i­cal move­ments, and even an individual’s development.

Recently I read a paper by Robert J. Stern­berg in which he applied this line of think­ing to cre­ativ­ity. He main­tains that intel­li­gence is the pre­vail­ing sta­tus quo “the­sis,” against which cre­ative peo­ple are seen as non­con­formists who think out­side the box. This would explain why cre­ative peo­ple some­times have a hard time fit­ting in.

But of course, being only intel­li­gent isn’t great; noth­ing new ever hap­pens. Being only cre­ative isn’t great, either. Stern­berg pro­poses that wis­dom is the syn­the­sis of these two forces, “bal­anc­ing the old with the new.” He writes:

Wise peo­ple rec­og­nize the need to bal­ance intel­li­gence with cre­ativ­ity to achieve both sta­bil­ity and change within a soci­etal context.

(The cited arti­cle is “What is the Com­mon Thread of Cre­ativ­ity” from the April 2001 Amer­i­can Psy­chol­o­gist, Vol 56. No. 4, 360–362.)

What are the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this idea in rela­tion to your own cre­ative process?

About Richard D. Russell

This was written by Richard D. Russell, New York City based composer of fine music.