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The act of creation

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The act of creation.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Arthur KOESTLER(Author)

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undiscovered laws

undiscovered laws

2.4 (11196)
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Book details

  • PDF | 751 pages
  • Arthur KOESTLER(Author)
  • The Macmillan Company; 1st edition (1964)
  • English
  • 2
  • Health, Fitness & Dieting

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Review Text

  • By BEvans on October 31, 2015

    Deep discussion of processes that go into thinking.

  • By Guest on February 16, 2015

    Best book ever

  • By Frank on September 25, 2016


  • By Isaac Morehouse on August 22, 2016

    In 1959 Arthur Koestler published a book called, The Sleepwalkers. In it, Koestler explores the distinction that emerged between science and the humanities, and science and religion. He follows the lives of many thinkers, primarily Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo.I have Sleepwalkers on my reading list but haven't read beyond the intro. Why am I opening with a description of this book instead of jumping right into The Act of Creation? Because it sheds light on the probable motivation and source of the rich content in the latter. When I first read AOC I was blown away by the depth of knowledge the author had of so many great discoverers. I did not expect a famous novelist to be such a student of the history of science and art. When I went digging into Koestler's life I discovered a fascination with luminary mold-breakers like Kepler and Galileo. His historical work on Sleepwalkers doubtless made Koestler curious about not just how external cultural influences shape major breakthroughs, but how the internal mental process works.Five years after Sleepwalkers, in 1964, AOC was published. It is a masterpiece. I'm baffled by why the book is out of print and why it is so little known.I first stumbled upon a tattered copy in a closing library giveaway pile. I was drawn to the book's description by my growing frustration with math envy in the social sciences. I had a hunch that path-breaking work comes not from those with the best “hard” skills, but from those with the best paradigmatic innovations. The best work seems to come from seeing the world differently, constructing theories from the new lens, then running some numbers to see how they look from the new vantage point.This bit about seeing the world anew has never been more profoundly communicated to me than in AOC. Koestler sets out to reveal general rules of creation that apply across media – from the creation of a joke, to a work of art, to a technological invention. It is a stunningly informative and ponderous work.Koestler describes worldviews as matrices of thought; well-worn knowledge and assumptions that we carry along with us and use as shortcuts for understanding our world. The eureka moment – the burst of laughter in a joke, the flow in the making of a sculpture, the sudden insight that unlocks the innovation – comes when two separate matrices intersect. Koestler calls this intersection “bisociation”, and sees it as a kind of relieving of tension as two paradigms moving in what appears to be unrelated directions suddenly converge.A poignant example in the book is Archimedes’ discovery of how to measure the purity of gold in a crown. Archimedes knew the weight per volume of gold vs. other metals, but he could not melt the crown down to figure out its volume. The thought matrix relating to weights, volumes and metals was completely unrelated to Archimedes afternoon bathing. Yet as he slipped into the tub and noticed the water level rise, matrices collided and the bath solved the measurement problem of the crown. It was not new, fancy calculations that resulted in this breakthrough on determining purity in oddly shaped gold items. Instead, it was a bisociation of existing knowledge on water displacement with that on metallic weight.Not only is creation about seeing familiar facts in new ways, it’s about allowing oneself the time and mental play to do so. Some of the greatest eureka moments have come upon waking from a dream, going on a long walk while the mind wanders, or taking an explicit break from the problem at hand. It is true, the great innovators have been versed in the science of their craft. But what separates creators from specialists is not better technical expertise, but new eyes that generate new ideas.Think big. Explore. Don’t let a lack of mastery keep you from probing the mysteries that fascinate you. Pick up a copy of AOC and it might inspire you to engage not only your conscious, but subconscious mind in the act of creation. It's well worth the price.

  • By A.Luther on April 10, 2017

    Arthur Koestler, in my opinion, was a great thinker and perhaps just as importantly, a great writer. Koestler's book "The Act of Creation" is without doubt a cerebral read, but for those who are up to reading 700 pages of intellectual analysis of mind and behaviour, this book should generally be accessible to most people . In the current age where popular science books are written in a highly generalist manner so as not to frighten people away from science, I find myself wishing that there were more books written for a general audience like this today. Even Daniel Dennett, occasionally lays the entertainment factor on too thick with his elaborate metaphors to explain his ideas. The general thread of an idea that runs through Koestler's book is that creativity comes about by the merging of two separate planes of thought that may seem initially to have nothing in common or may even be incompatible with one another. The linkage of these two planes of thought, Koestler calls "Bisociation." In the first half of the book, Koestler looks at the process of Bisociation and creativity as it applies to humour, science and art. Part one: "The Jester," which looks at humour is worth reading alone. The second half of the book entitled "Habit and Originality" is more bent toward psychological science and some may find the second half of the book a little dry compared to the first half. Another key aspect to Koestler's thoughts on creativity is the notion of a "matrix" and its "code." Matrix is defined by Koestler as a fixed code of rules, however, in reading the book it appears that Koestler defines a code as a more rigid lower dimensional representation or "code" of the higher dimensional matrix. Koestler gives the example of game of chess where the number of possible moves is the matrix and the rules of chess are its code. While the code restrains the rules of the game there are still many degrees of freedom associated with the different moves and outcomes of a game or games. In the second half of the book, the relation of matrices and codes to habit formation, perception, cognition, learning and memory are examined. Koestler spends some time looking at Behaviourist and Gestalt principles in psychology and is critical of both theories in terms of what they wish to say about how humans and animals learn and discover. Koestler introduces the notion that creative acts, learning and growth may require an initial regression to more simpler states of knowledge or development before making a step forward and he also introduces the idea that units of biological system, such as a cell, operate both independently and as part of greater organisational hierarchy. In Koestler's later book "The Ghost in the Machine" he defines this dual aspect units of biological systems as "Holons." Do the idea's in this book feel dated? Maybe some of the discussion on Behaviourism and Gestalt Psychology may feel dated but I'm not sure psychology has really moved on much from these traditional principles of psychology. Koestler was clearly a man with a lot of knowledge.

  • By JJR on July 15, 2015

    This book is like an Owner's Manual for any thinking and creative human being. I've been reading it, pondering it, discussing it with my friends and colleagues. Koestler is a classic thinker who coined the word, biosiation. Once I groked the enormity of biosiation in the creative process, it seemed to activate a deeper quality of creativity in my own work.I'm keeping this book as a go-to read when ever i'm in a creative cup-du-sac. A must read, a must resource, a must way of thinking for stimulating creative writing, art, invention, thinking, speaking . . . having been written in the 1960's, it seems archaically written and referenced, and that seems to be a great asset to think in this new way about the timeless classics.

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