Creativity East and West

Dissertation, University of Edinburgh (2020)
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This thesis is about the creativity in the East and the West, but I will mainly focus on the view of creativity in ancient Greek philosophy and Chinese philosophy. In the first chapter, I will explore the concept of creativity, the history of creativity, and the research on creativity, including the creativity research in psychology and philosophy, which will set the stage for further disscusion. Then in the second chapter, I will start from Plato’s dialogue, Ion, and explore the traditional theory of creativity in ancient Greek philosophy, and claim that their creative ability is inspired by divine being. After this, I will show people’s view on creativity has undergone a process of demystification. During this process, people gradually began to resist the divine source and explore the world individually and independently. Meanwhile, the meaning of the concept of creativity has become broader, since it is not limited to poem any more, but it can be applied to other fields, such as art, science, and education. In the third chapter, I will turn to the modern creativity theory, including the lateral thinking and emotional creativity, and explore how to be creative with lateral thinking techniques and how to improve creativity through emotion regulation. After the examination in the West, I will turn to the theory of creativity in Chinese philosophy, by focusing on classical works in Daoism and Confucianism. In the fourth chapter, I will explore the view of creativity in philosophy of Daoism. I will claim that the creativity in Daoism is natural and cosmological, and there is no external creative source, so I will claim it is self- creativity, which is distinct from the ancient Western creativity pushed by external divine power. In the fifth chapter, I will argue that the creativity in Confucianism is evolutionary, which is unlike the revolutionary creativity in the West, and I will propose the way to become creative in Confucianism based on its classics, Analects, and then will explore the creativity principle and how the agent cultivate their creative ability in Confucianism. In the conclusion, I will summarize the difference between the creativity in East and West, from the perspective of the source of creativity, nature of creativity. I will claim that the source of creativity in ancient Greek philosophy is divine being, whereas there is no divine source for creativity in Chinese philosophy, therefore, the creativity in the West traditionally is inspired creativity, while the creativity in the East traditionally is natural and cosmological creativity. In addition, the concept of creativity in the West is revolutionary, whereas the concept of creativity in the East is evolutionary and the moral function of creativity is also addressed in Chinese philosophy.



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Yuanyuan Liu
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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