The Creativity-Knowledge Dichotomy

by | Aug 15, 2001 | POLITICS

I saw a bumpersticker the other day which said, “Creativity Is More Important Than Knowledge.” What an excellent example of utterly wrong thinking! You can’t separate creativity from knowledge. The two are intertwined. Generally speaking, greater amounts of knowledge lead to a greater creative capacity. The more an artist has experienced different emotions in life, […]

I saw a bumpersticker the other day which said, “Creativity Is More Important Than Knowledge.”

What an excellent example of utterly wrong thinking!

You can’t separate creativity from knowledge. The two are intertwined. Generally speaking, greater amounts of knowledge lead to a greater creative capacity. The more an artist has experienced different emotions in life, the better paintings he can create. The more a creative writer has known different kinds of people, the more interesting and sophisticated stories she can write. The more a businessman understands what consumers want, the better he can satisfy them and make a profit. Knowledge breeds creativity. Without knowledge in the first place, there would be nothing to create!

People who separate knowledge from creativity in this way are actually seeking to place emotions above reason. They resent the fact that knowledge sometimes gets in the way of their emotions. So they blame knowledge. They intellectually shoot the messenger. Think about it. Knowledge implies knowledge of something. Of what? Reality, obviously. Objective reality. And objective reality implies something which exists whether you are conscious of it or not, and whether you feel like acknowledging its existence or not. The type of person who would have such a bumpersticker is the type of person who would say, in the middle of an argument: “You just don’t get it, do you?” and then never deliver an explanation for what “it” is, nor what “getting” it might specifically entail. To such people, their feelings are not merely their own subjective reality; their feelings are reality period.

Such a bumpersticker also reinforces unfair, inaccurate stereotypes. It implies that knowledge-oriented endeavors such as scientific research do not involve creativity. Nothing could be further from the truth! Scientists are some of the most creative people who exist. They start with facts and imagine what certain facts could imply. They hypothesize and form theories. Sometimes the theories lead to dead ends; sometimes, on the other hand, the theories lead to cures for horrible diseases. The same applies to business people. Bill Gates is a classic example of a creative businessman who changed the world with his vision. There are many others. In their quest to make a profit, they also produce magnificent things. Even the less creative, less brilliant business people still find very creative ways to expand and develop markets. The business entrepreneur is the classic example of the creative genius: the type who imagines what people want, and creates or discovers new markets — or new ways to cater to existing markets.

Traditionally, most of us assume that creativity is limited to the worlds of art, literature, and humanities, while knowledge is limited to the realm of business and science. This is what the person who wrote this bumpersticker expression is clearly assuming.

I wonder if the person driving the car thinks that the knowledge required to make the car run is unimportant? Or the knowledge required of a physician to cure a malady is unimportant? I also wonder what this disdain for knowledge really covers up.

Anyone who tries to separate creativity and knowledge can only accomplish one thing: the destruction of both.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

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