Creativity and the richness of brain concepts

Creativity and richness of brain concepts

Posted Jan 21, 2009

In previous blogs and in my recent book Splendors and Miseries of the Brain, I argued that one of the dangers that limits creativity is self-censorship. Any creative person, whether in art or literature or music or theatre, who censors what they want to say or depict because of social disapproval or prohibition, or because of a self-imposed, even unconscious, censorship, will find it difficult to produce a work of art of the highest quality. This is what I presume Schopenhauer to have meant when he said that a work of art should flow from the sub-conscious. That statement does not stand up to scientific scrutiny, but its meaning is clear.

But there are other factors that stifle creativity and these can be traced to the richness of the synthetic concepts formed by the brain. Since, by definition, a synthetic concept is a synthesis of many experiences, it is commonly difficult to reproduce that experience in a single work of art or musical creation. As I argue in Splendors and Miseries of the Brain (a title, incidentally, which I borrowed from Balzac's masterpiece entitled Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes) Balzac had very much this in mind when, in The Unknown Masterpiece (Le Chef-d'œuvre inconnu), he made the progressive destruction of a painting by overworking it, because of a richness of concepts in the artist's brain, the central theme.

Thus there are two extreme consequences of the efficiency of the brain's concept forming system as far as art and creativity are concerned: on the one hand, the impossibility of undertaking a creative enterprise and on the other the destruction of a work by trying to cover too many aspects of the synthetic concept.

More Posts