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Creativity not new

Donald Richardson’s point that the arts do not generally fund themselves is well taken (The Australian, Letters, 23/1), but his dismissal of creativity as “a concept bandied about in the arts these days” is inaccurate. The first modern artistic application of the term was to 17th century poetry, and by the 19th it was commonplace across all the arts. In the 20th, it transferred to other disciplines as well.

Creativity is not merely to “act divergently”, but to solve novel problems using divergent thinking. Richardson points out that some crimes may fit this description, but that does not make them any less creative!

Richardson labels creativity as “pop psychology” because “no one has identified any mental or physical capacity responsible” for it. Even if this were true, it would remain a valid heuristic term, just like resourcefulness, empathy, ambition, or any other well-understood qualities that doubtless reflect poorly-understood brain functions. But in fact it has been the subject of a great deal of fruitful scientific research as early as the 1950s, intensifying over the last decade as its value in many fields of human endeavour comes to be recognised.