Philosophers about Creativity

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Great philosophers about creativity

Creativity comes from awakening and directing men’s higher natures, which originate in the primal depths of the universe and are appointed by Heaven.
I Ching (12th с. BC, Book of Changes, Chinese classic text)

The Creative knows the great beginnings. The Receptive completes the finished things.
I Ching

Great indeed is the sublimity of the Creative, to which all beings owe their beginning and which permeates all heaven
I Ching

Turn yourself not away from three best things: Good Thought, Good Word, and Good Deed.
Zoroaster (c.628 – c.551 BC) Persian spiritual teacher and philosopher

I am not an originator but a transmitter.
Confucius (551 – 479 BC), Chinese spiritual teacher and philosopher

He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.
Confucius

The Essence of Knowledge is, having it, to use it.
Confucius

Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.
Confucius

Where so ever you go, go with all your heart.
Confucius

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Confucius

Great indeed is the sublimity of the Creative, to which all beings owe their beginning and which permeates all heaven.
Laozi (6c. BC), Chinese spiritual teacher and philosopher

From wonder into wonder existence opens.
Laozi

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Laozi

The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.
Laozi

Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.
Laozi

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
Laozi

For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.
Laozi

Silence is a source of Great Strength.
Laozi

To see things in the seed, that is genius.
Laozi

Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
Laozi

The master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. He prefers what is within to what is without.
Laozi

As soon as you have made a thought, Laugh at it.
Laozi

Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
Sun Tzu (c. 544-496 BC), Chinese military general and philosopher, the author of The Art of War

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Sun Tzu

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
Sun Tzu

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we create the world.
Buddha (563 – 483 BC), Indian spiritual teacher and philosopher

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
Heraclitus ( c. 535 – c. 475 BCE), Greek philosopher

If you do not the expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.
Heraclitus

The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony.
Heraclitus

I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled [poets] to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.
Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC), Greek philosopher

The poets are nothing but interpreters of the gods, each one possessed by the divinity to whom he is in bondage.
Plato (427–347 BC), Greek philosopher

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”
Plato

The deity on purpose [sings] the liveliest of all lyrics through the most miserable poet.
Plato

Life must be lived as play.
Plato

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), Greek philosopher

The soul never thinks without a picture.
Aristotle

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Aristotle

Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.
Meng-Tse (Mencius) (372 – 289 BC), Chinese Confucian philosopher

He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man.
Meng-Tse

Everything is the product of one universal creative effort. There is nothing dead in Nature. Everything is organic and living, and therefore the whole world appears to be a living organism.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (ca. 4 BC – AD 65), Roman Stoic philosopher

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let if first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
Epictetus (55–135 AD), Greek Stoic philosopher

The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.
Thomas Aquinas (January 28, 1225 –March 7, 1274), Italian Dominican priest, philosopher and theologian

Stillness is where creativity and solutions are found.
Meister Johann Eckhart (c. 1260 – c. 1327), German theologian, philosopher and mystic

The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.
Meister Eckhart

Children at play are not playing about. Their games should be seen as their most serious minded activity.
Michel de Montaigne (February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592), French writers 

If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted.
Francis Bacon (January 22, 1561 –April 9, 1626), English philosopher

A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.
Francis Bacon

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.
Francis Bacon

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
Francis Bacon

Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.
René Descartes (March 31, 1596 –February 11, 1650), French philosopher and mathematician

Doubt is the origin of wisdom.
René Descartes

It is not enough to have a good mind, the main thing is to use it well.
René Descartes

If we do not find anything pleasant, at least we shall find something new.
Voltaire (November 21, 1694 –May 30, 1778), French Enlightenment philosopher

Originality is nothing by judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.
Voltaire

I hold firmly to my original views. After all I am a philosopher.
Voltaire

All this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us the by senses and experience.
David Hume (May 7, 1711 –August 25, 1776), Scottish philosopher

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 –July 2, 1778), French philosopher and writer

All human knowledge thus begins with intuitions, proceeds thence to concepts, and ends with ideas.
Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 –February 12, 1804), German philosopher

Imagination is a powerful agent for creating, as it were, a second nature out of the material supplied to it by actual nature.
Kant

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.
Immanuel Kant

Treat a work of art like a prince: let it speak to you first.
Arthur Schopenhauer (February 22, 1788 –September 21, 1860), German philosopher

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Ordinary people merely think how they shall ‘spend’ their time; a man of talent tries to ‘use’ it.
Arthur Schopenhauer

I believe in Eternity. I can find Greece, Palestine, Italy, Spain, and the Islands, – the Genius and creative Principle of each and of all eras, in my own mind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882), American Transcendentalist philosopher, essayist

A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying the outlines of its form merely… but by watching for a time his motions and plays, the painter enters into his nature and can then draw him at every attitude …
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beauty, without expression, tires.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

One must be an inventor to read well. There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The two terrors that discourage creativity and creative living are fear of public opinion and undue reverence for one’s own consistency.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.
Soren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813 –November 11, 1855), Danish philosopher

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
Søren Kierkegaard

It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it.
Søren Kierkegaard

The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.
Mikhail Bakunin (May 30, 1814 –July 1, 1876), Russian philosopher and revolutionary

If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to lead a life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862), American poet, transcendentalist philosopher

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
Henry David Thoreau

Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, Simplify.
Henry David Thoreau

Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be.
Henry David Thoreau

Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.
Henry David Thoreau

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

The struggle of maturity is to recover the seriousness of a child at play.
Friedrich Neitzsche (October 15, 1844 –August 25, 1900), German philosopher

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
Friedrich Nietzsche

The overman…Who has organized the chaos of his passions, given style to his character, and become creative. Aware of life’s terrors, he affirms life without resentment.
Friedrich Nietzsche

For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Art is essentially the affirmation, the blessing, and the deification of existence.
Friedrich Nietzsche

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Has anyone…any distinct notion of what poets of a stronger age understood by the word inspiration? … There is an ecstasy such that the immese strain of it is sometimes relaxed by a flood of tears, along with which one’s steps either rush or involuntarily lag, alternately. There is the feeling that one is completely out of hand, with the very distinct consciousness of an endless number of fine thrills and quiverings to the very toes… Everything happens quite involuntarily, as if in a tempestuous outburst of freedom, of absoluteness, of power and divinity.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Every man is a creative cause of what happens, a primum mobile with an original movement.
Friedrich Nietzsche

One hears — one does not seek; one takes — one does not ask who gives.
Friedrich Nietzsche

There are no facts, only interpretations.
Friedrich Nietzsche

There is no greater joy than that of feeling oneself a creator. The triumph of life is expressed by creation.
Henri Bergson (October 18, 1859 –January 4, 1941), French philosopher

To perceive means to immobilize. . . we seize, in the act of perception, something which outruns perception itself.
Henri Bergson

Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.
Henri Bergson

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination.
John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952), American philosopher and psychologist

“…a problem well put is half solved.”
John Dewey

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.
Alfred North Whitehead (February 15,1861 –December 30, 1947), English philosopher and mathematician

The ‘silly’ question is the first intimation of some totally new development.
Alfred North Whitehead

Periods of tranquillity are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.
George Santayana (December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952), Spanish-American philosopher and essayist

To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well.
George Santayana

Culture arises and unfolds in and as play.
Johan Huizinga (December 7, 1872 – February 1, 1945),  Dutch philosopher and historian

Philosophy, for Plato, is a kind of vision, the ‘vision of truth’…Everyone who has done any kind of creative work has experienced, in a greater or less degree, the state of mind in which, after long labour, truth or beauty appears, or seems to appear, in a sudden glory – it may only be about some small matter, or it may be about the universe. I think that most of the best creative work, in art, in science, in literature, and in philosophy, has been a result of just such a moment.
Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872 –February 2, 1970), British philosopher

There are certain things that our age needs. It needs, above all, courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness.
Bertrand Russell

Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.
Bertrand Russell

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
Bertrand Russell

Creativity is the supreme mystery of life, the mystery of the appearance of something new, hitherto unknown, derived from nothing, proceeding from nothing, born of nothing other….
Nikolai Berdyaev (March 18, 1874 – March 24, 1948), Russian philosopher.

True life is creativity, not development: it is the freedom for creative acts, for creative fire, rather than necessity and the heaviness of congealing self-perfection.
Nikolai Berdyaev

Creativity is the mystery of freedom.
Nikolai Berdyaev

There is no objective reality. But there is only an illusion of consciousness, there is only an objectivication of reality, which was created by the spirit. The origin of life is creativity, freedom; and the personality, subject, and spirit are the representatives of that origin, but not the nature, not the object.
Nikolai Berdyaev

Philosophy… is the creative perception by the spirit of the meaning of human existence.
Nikolai Berdyaev

Dostoevsky – is not a realist as an artist, he is an experimentator, a creator of an experimential metaphysics of human nature.
Nikolai Berdyaev

Creativeness is liberation from slavery. Man is free when he finds himself in a state of creative activity. Creativeness leads to ecstasy of the moment. The products of creativeness are within time, but the creative act itself lies outside time.
Nikolai Berdyaev

Creativity is something which proceeds from within, out of immeasurable and inexplicable depths, not from without, not from the world’s necessity. The very desire to make the creative act understandable, to find a basis for it, is failure to comprehend it. To comprehend the creative act means to recognize that it is inexplicable and without foundation.
Nikolai Berdyaev

In creativity the way will be found for subject to pass into object, the identity of subject with object will be restored. All the great creators have foreseen this turning-point. Today, in the depths of culture itself and in all its separate spheres, this crisis of creativity is ripening.
Nikolai Berdyaev

In every artistic activity a new world is created, the cosmos, a world enlightened and free.
Nikolai Berdyaev

But man as a person, the same man, gains mastery over egocentric self-confinement by disclosing a universe in himself…Personality is a universe, it is filled with universal content.
Nikolai Berdyaev

Self-realization is a process of permanent auto-creation, an elaboration of the new man at the expense of the old.
Nikolai Berdyaev

The essential in artistic creativity is victory over the burden of necessity. In art, man lives outside himself, outside his burdens, the burdens of life. Every creative artistic act is a partial transfiguration of life. In the artistic concept man breaks out through the heaviness of the world. In the creative-artistic attitude towards this world we catch a glimpse of another world.
Nikolai Berdyaev

We are standing on the threshold of a world-epoch of religious creativeness, on a cosmic divide.
Nikolai Berdyaev

…in the third epoch the divinity of man’s creative nature is finally revealed and divine power becomes human power.
Nikolai Berdyaev

The geniuses have created, but they were less: the saints have been, but they created little…A twofold tragedy of creativeness reveals the truth that there has not yet been in our world a religious epoch of creativity.
Nikolai Berdyaev

It is imperative to bear in mind that human creativity is not a claim or a right on the part of man, but God’s claim on and call to man. God awaits man’s creative act, which is the response to the creative act of God.
Nikolai Berdyaev

This is the eternal origin of art that a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through him. Not a figment of his soul but something that appears to the soul and demands the soul’s creative power. What is required is a deed that a man does with his whole being.
Martin Buber (February 8, 1878 – June 13, 1965) was an Austrian-born Israeli Jewish philosopher

Creation happens to us, burns into us, changes us, we tremble and swoon, we submit. Creation – we participate in it, we encounter the creator, offer ourselves to him, helpers and companions.
Martin Buber

Creation happens to us, burns into us, changes us, we tremble and swoon, we submit. Creation – we participate in it, we encounter the creator, offer ourselves to him, helpers and companions.
Martin Buber

Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955), French philosopher and Jesuit priest

A single idea, if it is right, saves us the labor of an infinity of experiences.
Jacques Maritain (November 18, 1882 –April 28, 1973), French Catholic philosopher

The metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him.
Jose Ortega y Gasset (May 9, 1883 –October 18, 1955), Spanish philosopher

We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but he does not know what to create.
Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Freedom is only to be found where there is burden to be shouldered. In creative achievements this burden always represents an imperative and a need that weighs heavily upon man’s mood, so that he comes to be in a mood of melancholy. All creative action resides in a mood of melancholy, whether we are clearly aware of the fact or not, whether we speak at length about it or not. All creative action resides in a mood of melancholy, but this is not to say that everyone in a melancholy mood is creative.
Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976), German philosopher

The great thinker is one who can hear what is greatest in the work of other “greats” and who can transform it in an original manner.
Martin Heidegger

Only when one thinks even much more madly than the philosophers can one solve their problems.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (April 26, 1889 –April 29,1951), Austrian-British philosopher

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

All life is problem solving.
Karl R. Popper (July 28, 1902 –September 17, 1994), Austro-British philosopher

A successful work of art is not one which resolves contradictions in a spurious harmony, but one which expresses the idea of harmony negatively by embodying the contradictions, pure and uncompromised, in its innermost structure.
Theodore Adorno (September 11, 1903 – August 6, 1969), German philosopher and sociologist

True creativity often starts where language ends.
Arthur Koestler (September 5, 1905 – March 1, 1983) was a Hungarian-Jewish novelist, philosopher, journalist

The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.
Arthur Koestler

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and the pupil are located in the same individual.
Arthur Koestler

The prerequisite of originality is the art of forgetting, at the proper moment, what we know.
Arthur Koestler

Creativity is the defeat of habit by originality.
Arthur Koestler

The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.
Arthur Koestler

Creativity in science could be described as the act of putting two and two together to make five.
Arthur Koestler

The creativity and pathology of the human mind are, after all, two sides of the same medal coined in the evolutionary mint. The first is responsible for the splendour of our cathedrals, the second for the gargoyles that decorate them to remind us that the world is full of monsters, devils, and succubi.
Arthur Koestler

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.
Albert Camus (November 7, 1913 –January 4, 1960), French philosopher

Great ideas, it is said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps, then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations a faint flutter of wings; the gentle stirring of life and hope.
Albert Camus

A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.
Albert Camus

Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all others.
Albert Camus

Do you train for passing tests or do you train for creative inquiry?
Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928), American linguist and philosopher

We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are.
Humberto Maturana (born September 14, 1928), Chilean philosopher and biologist

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