The creative activity of mind with special reference to the metaphysics of religion and ethics.
McKellar, Ella Clare
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The problem of this dissertation is the definition of the nature and limits of the creative activity of mind. Is the mind passive or creative or both? If mind is creative, in what sense and to what extent is it creative? This problem is important for, the view of mind as passive or as active influences scientists, philosophers, artists, and statesmen (whether consciously or unconsciously), in their aims and methods of procedure. Augustine's complaint (that men study everything except themselves) can still be made. Creation is making something new, that is to say, something which was not given in the situation prior to creation and is not logically implied in that situation. Creation has traditionally been regarded as an exclusively divine prerogative. In the past twenty years, however, much has been written about human creativity. Does man have a right to speak of his own mind as creative, that is, able to produce new qualities, new relations, or even new realities? Many represent mind as merely passive; such a mind cannot be creative. Others exclude all passivity and hold that mind is wholly active; but such a mind could not even receive impressions from without. A systematic study of the problem of activity, passivity, and creativity by comparing data from historical, rational, and broadly empirical sources, such as this dissertation undertakes, has not previously been attempted. I. The Historical Approach. 1. Greek Philosophy is investigated, as one of the main sources of Western civilization. The great thinkers with few exceptions viewed mind as active. From Pythagoras on, there was a tendency to regard reality as immaterial or spiritual rather than material. Anthropomorphism, originally crude, was first criticized by Xenophanes (and Deutero-Isaiah), and then transformed into the clear idea of an organic universe in Plato. The dialectic principle emerges with the discovery of the self, its logos (Heraclitus) and nous (Anaxagoras). There is a tendency to identify mind, reality, and God. Creative activity was suggested especially by Plato through love, imitation, imagination, thought, effort, and the Idea of the Good. 2. Later contributions after the union of Greek and Judaeo-Christian influences show: ( 1) From Augustine and Descartes on, frequent recognition of the prime certainty of the self; (2) in Plotinus, Augustine, and Kant, acceptance of the activity of mind even in sensation; (3) since Berkeley and Leibniz renewed emphasis on activity and individualism (a metaphysic combining qualitative monism with quantitative pluralism) ; (4) in Berkeley, freedom, the immanence of God in nature ("divine language"), the belief that God can be known empirically and by reflection on experience, and the suggestion that mind-body interaction is cooperation with God; (5) in Hegel, interpretation of the principles of mind as an organic whole, the emptiness of abstraction, spirit as reality, a universal dialectical movement, the rational as the actual, and God as the most concretely universal personality; (6) in Bowne, personality as the center of a systematic philosophy, with freedom, individuality, activity and creativity of mind as fundamental principles. II. The Empirical Approach. 1. The creative results of the more empirical Hebrew mind are reviewed and compared with those of the more rational Greek, revealing many similarities. The philosopher searching for truth and the prophet seeking religious satisfaction arrive at like views of a creative spiritual universe. 2. Progress, discoveries and inventions in the sciences and the arts reveal the creative genius of the mind of man. 3. An examination of individual consciousness is made, distinguishing its esse from its causa. Introspection reveals the prime certainty of the self, the experiences of passivity, activity, and creativity involving body, physical world, other minds, and God. Single functions of mind indicated by various authorities as responsible for creativity are then examined, with the conclusion that the functions are all interdependent, no one ever acting alone, and that it is the whole mind which creates. III. Resultant Hypothesis. Interpretation of the data from all the above-mentioned sources suggests sixteen specific explanatory hypotheses. These lead to the conclusion that all creativity involves divine action wholly or in part, and to the following classification of types of creativity: 1. Creations by God's will alone. (1) The production of novelties and emergents within God's experience (for example, the evolution of the physical world, as viewed by personal idealism). (2) The production of selves and persons external to God (the creation of conscious selves as an aspect of the evolutionary process). 2. Creations by mans' will alone; free choices within limits. 3. Cooperative creations of divine and human wills: (1) Mental productions spch as ideas, knowledge, literary achievements, the discovery of essences (or thinking God's thoughts after him), and the development of selves into personalities. (2) Novel rearrangements of physical materials (initiated by human purposes: works of invention, compositions of art and science, and the birth of new organisms. The Resultant Hypothesis. Mind and only mind is creative. God alone truly creates, but men may cooperate with him in producing something new which he could not have achieved alone. Human mind by its free will is creative within limits producing novelties because it is a creative member of that rational, organic, dialectic society which includes God the ultimate source of creativity. IV. Relation of the Hypothesis to Other Fields. The hypothesis is then related to epistemology, psychology, metaphysics, religion, ethics, and education to discover what difference its acceptance would make and whether or not a coherent view of each of these fields would be compatible with it. The main conclusions of the dissertation, resting on the metaphysical hypothesis that reality is a society of minds sustained and ordered by a supreme and rational, mind, are as follows: 1. A mind is a unitary, organic, functioning whole. 2. Mind is active, passive, and dialectical or interactive. Every moment contains some activity and some complementary passivity. 3. The highest most nearly independent creation of man is in his free choices, but man may be called creative if he is a cooperative factor essential to some of God's creations. 4. The human mind creates ideas and knowledge by choosing new relations and discovers essences by communicating with other minds and by cooperating with God. 5. By a process of interaction with God, mental creations of man lead to new material productions through the skilled use of the body. 6. Revelation is both a historical fact and also a present and future possibility, which is actualized only in active creative minds. 7. Only God creates in the highest sense of bringing minds into being external to himself; and the production of all novelties (except acts of choice within human experience) always involves divine creativity.
Typescript. Thesis (Th.D.)--Boston University. N.B.: pages 259-260 and 279-286 appear to be missing from the original manuscript. The former case appears to be a page numbering error on the author's part; no actual content is missing. In the latter case, it is unclear whether content was lost or the author mis-numbered the pages.