The symbol theory of creativity

There appears in the literature of philosophy, psychology and education numerous public concepts of "creativity." Not only is there disagreement among the various authors as to whether or not there is any such thing as the "creative process" but the criteria by which these authors determine whether or not an individual is "creative" appears to be quite varied. Based on these criteria, the educator may reach either of two opposing -but seemingly equally valid conclusions; 1. "Creativity" can be encouraged, promoted or taught, or; 2. "Creativity" cannot be encouraged, promoted or taught. These concepts of "creativity" tend to obscure a valuable area of experience which is of particular importance to education. A new concept of creativity is present in this paper which attempts to delineate this area of experience and show how this concept is related to education. This concept is based on the symbolic nature of all of mankind's cultural forms and the creative act is seen as an act of symbol-making. First some definitions are presented, then the function of both a sign and a symbol are discussed. A brief review of some of the symbol systems used by man is undertaken. Two cases of creativity are examined: l. A special case which is defined as an act of symbol-making by an individual which produces a work which eventually becomes a major extension or addition to one of the forms of knowledge, and; 2. A general case which is defined as: an act of symbol-making by an individual which produces a symbol for a conception of experience which is new to the individual. This second concept of creativity is compared with some of the typical current concepts of "creativity" and a study of the relationships between these concepts is made. Finally, this symbol theory of creativity and its relationship to Hirst's concept of a liberal education is examined.