A bid for novelty: Conceptions of creativity

Michael Halewood: Halewood, M – There is no Meaning (PDF download)

Surprising as it may seem, Alfred North Whitehead coined the term “creativity” in the 1920s as a very specific, technical philosophical term. Since then, the term seems to have taken on a life of its own. Nowadays, creativity is something that we are expected to demonstrate, admire and respect, be it in our job applications, teaching styles, sex life, and beyond. However, when attempting to so do, I am not sure that we always know what we are talking about. In this paper, I will briefly outline Whitehead’s concept of creativity and the role that it plays in his philosophy. I will stress that, for him, creativity is a neutral term; in itself it is neither good nor bad. Its philosophical purpose is to challenge static philosophical concepts and to enable him to account for novelty. I will then link this to his distinction between “general” and “real” potentiality. General potentiality is a metaphysical concept, linked to the concept of creativity considered in abstract. It is not something that we ever witness. Real potentiality is also linked to the concept of creativity, but constitutes the limited and limiting realm of the contemporary and future world that we actually inhabit. It is in respect to real potentiality that genuine questions of the role and worth of creativity can be raised and linked to questions of responsibility, politics and ethics.

Bio: Michael Halewood is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. His main area of research is the relation of philosophy and social theory, especially in the work of A.N. Whitehead. He has written on authors such as Badiou, Butler, Dewey and Marx and questions dealing with the body, sexual difference, materiality and subjectivity and the concepts of the natural and social. His recent monograph is titled: A.N. Whitehead and Social Theory. Tracing a Culture of Thought (Anthem Press).

Maria Hynes: Hynes, M – Affirming Creativity (PDF download)

Creativity is a value that is increasingly rendered banal, whether in its recruitment as an instrument of capital or in its idealisation as a tool for social protest. While popular usage and much academic discourse alike treat creativity as a valued attribute of the individual and/or collective subject, this paper seeks to take the concept outside this attributive schema, with the hope that a more mannerist treatment might enable it to do novel work. To this end, I mobilise a series of concepts – affirmation, event, capacity, time, art, singularity and habit – and show how they might vitalise our conceptualisation of creativity. I also offer some suggestions as to how the idea of creativity, articulated through this series of concepts, might be productively inflected toward the notion of play. Play has often been celebrated as a figure of transgression and subversion but this, I argue, ties it too closely to a metaphysics of the subject. In outlining another economy by which to think the creative potentials of play, I suggest that play is always more than an efficacious vehicle for essentially serious issues or a frivolous avoidance of them and, as such, can have a more affirmative role in the politics of thinking.

Bio: Maria Hynes is a Lecturer at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. She is an affect theorist who has written on the themes of enthusiasm, indifference, lightness, joyous politics, habit and ethico-aesthetics. Maria has published in a variety of journals, including Parallax, Culture Machine, Environment and Planning A, British Journal of Sociology and Continuum, and is currently working on a book, ‘Figures of Affect.’