Say Hello To My Little Brain

“Biological Basis For Creativity Linked To Mental Illness,” says the headline. Turns out that “the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment,” a trait also associated with psychosis.

exploring the brain So the big story here is about the possible connection between creativity and psychosis. But I’m still grumping over the phrase “biological basis for creativity.” Because it sounds to me as though they are treating the discovery that creative people’s brains are more open to stimuli as though it explained why those people are more creative. And it’s not obvious to me that it does that.

Going on the assumption that all mental states (acquired as well as innate – something that cheerleaders for neuroscience oddly seem to forget) have neurophysiological correlates, it follows that there will be some physical difference between the brains of people who believe they have a brother named Steve and the brains of people who don’t believe that. But it would be weird to call this difference in brains the explanatory basis of the difference in beliefs. Surely it’s actually having or not having a brother named Steve that accounts for the difference, and the difference in brain structures is less a cause of the difference in beliefs than it is the physical side of that difference, the form in which the different beliefs are materially realised.

Analogously, if you asked me “why are you all dressed up today?” and I answered “because I’m wearing a suit and tie,” you might justifiably feel that I’d misunderstood your question.

One Response to Say Hello To My Little Brain

  1. Gene Callahan April 1, 2008 at 4:43 am #

    Roderick, I’ve become convinced that we’re just the current troops fighting a very old battle: the perennial philosophy versus the sophists. The fact that so many on the other side think of their position as “modern” only reflects how much they need to disparage the history of ideas to bolster their self-image.

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