Synopsis

The volume may be considered a continuation of the efforts of scholars who for many years now have closely cooperated with the book series Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. The two volumes that preceded it, namely Consciousness: Methodological and Psychological Approaches (ed. J. Brzezinski, PSPSH, vol. 8, 1985) and Science: Between Algorithm and Creativity (ed. J. Brzezinski, F. Coniglione & T. Marek; Delft: Eburon, 1992) were both attempts at bridging the gap between philosophy and psychology. It has turned out that Nowak’s Idealizational Theory of Science played an important role in determining what seemed common to the two disciplines. The theory itself originated in philosophy, yet it has been applied most often in psychology, particularly in the methodology of psychology. Though in this volume the influence of idealizational theory can hardly be regarded dominant, its presence is evident, as it has shaped the way of thinking of many of the authors of the papers included here.

The idealizational theory, however, has by no means been the only source of the authors’ inspiration. They are all representatives of distinct disciplines — philosophy, methodology and psychology — and within each of these, they advocate different theories and methodological approaches. The papers of M. Bunge, L. Nowak, I. Nowakowa, K. Zamiara, R.L. Franklin, J. Brzezinski, Z. Piatek and J. Janousek are all examples of philosophical and methodological contributions. The psychological papers include those by D.K. Simonton, M.A. Runco and J.R. Gaynor, A. Falkowski, M. Stasiakiewicz, A. Brzezinska, S. Di Nuovo, T. Maruszewski, M. Kowalczyk, M. Fafrowicz et al., A. Kokoszka and P. Wolski. The authors of psychological papers are proponents of a particularly wide range of approaches, from developmental psychology, through cognitive psychology to psychophysiology. Finally, there are papers by the proponents of the historical approach: K.V. Wilkes, F. Di Maria and G. Lavanco, B. Wallace and others.

A question could be raised whether it is possible for such a diversified collection of papers to have enough in common to be included in a single volume; is it not a motley mosaic of opinions? The question is difficult to answer at the moment. Yet, in putting the papers together the editors consciously applied a certain strategy which — in terms borrowed from the ancient art warfare — could be described as follows. They believe that the two phenomena with which they deal in this volume, i.e. consciousness and creativity, can be compared to two fortresses or strongholds which have for a long time been impenetrable to the scientists attacking them. Thus, it seems reasonable to storm the fortresses once again, from all possible sides this time. This may increase the chances of its surrender. Yet, one point should be made clear here. There are no enemies in the fortresses. On the contrary, they are full of treasures of the human mind. To get hold of them is a challenge to many scientists.

The central issue of the volume , creativity and consciousness , is analyzed both from a psychological and a philosophical point of view. The former pays more attention to the processes of creation and of being conscious and/or aware, while the latter deals primarily with creation and consciousness as products of the two processes. The editors assume that the analysis of processes should really precede any analysis of the product (or products) of those processes.

Many psychological studies aim at answering two fundamental questions: (a) how is new information born in human mind (or, alternately, how does the mind generate the information?) and (b) how does a person learn of its existence? Already the proponents of introspectionism, and then those of psychoanalysis, started making a distinction at the level of human mental life between the existence of new phenomena (including new information) and our coming to be aware of them. The two kinds of processes seem to be independent of each other and they are also governed by different rules. For it is quite possible for some new information to come into being and yet remain inaccessible to the individual who is its “bearer.” Anyone who has ever done creative work knows from his own experience the difference between the feeling that he/she has just found the right answer or conceived some interesting idea and the very heavy work required in putting this idea into words. On the other hand, it is feasible that it is just within consciousness that the mind’s “work on new information” is done, as proposed by the theory of working memory.

The problem of determining exactly in which part of the mind new information is born will most probably have to wait quite a long time for a viable solution. One might suspect that information first appears at the level of the subconscious, and that our consciousness can then sub-classify a given set of data into those that meet certain requirements (and which will be dealt with “later on”), and those that do not, and will therefore be considered not worth the trouble of dealing with. On the other hand, it is equally feasible to assume — as did J.G. Greeno — that the work of the mind is restricted to working memory (which corresponds more or less to what is also known as consciousness or the level of the conscious) and that it is memory that in search of the data it needs makes use of various sources (such as long-term memory store or external memory, for instance). The two approaches seem to put emphasis on different aspects of the problem and make the researcher ask slightly different questions. The former, for instance, stresses the issue of how the effects of the work of our mind reach the level of consciousness, whereas the work of the mind itself is mysteriously carried out somehow in unconsciousness. By contrast, the other approach allows one to follow just the work of the mind, while the process of coming to be aware (conscious) of the data remains unexplained.

It might be concluded that the process of generating new information and becoming aware of it are strongly interdependent. Whatever is being admitted to consciousness must have been previously generated by the cognitive system. Yet, the act of admitting anything into consciousness itself can change both the course and contents of other cognitive processes, including the processes of generating new information. A notion like that must have formed at the basis of the approach that viewed consciousness as an a priori causal theory. The approach was commonly considered highly controversial in the psychologists’ community. Its last version, though much weaker than the original, still views consciousness as a rather vague representation of mental life. It (primarily) includes data pertaining to the processes or contents that ought to appear in a given situation, but which did not necessarily have to be present in reality at all. On the other hand, the studies of K.H. Ericsson and H.A. Simon (e.g. Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984) pointed to the fact that though the act of becoming aware may in itself interfere with other mental processes, the interfering , deforming feature of consciousness does not belong to its basic characteristics. In an overwhelming majority of cases, consciousness offers a relatively correct image of mental processes, so there is no need to give up such experimental techniques as thinking aloud. If we compare consciousness , as did one of the authors to a periscope with the help of which it is possible to penetrate the depth of the human psyche, we should rather expect that the periscope may, from time to time, have its lenses misted up, than believe that it is able to conjure an image of its own irrespective of what is going on in reality.

Finally, it is worthwhile to note a trend characteristic of all studies dealing with creativity and consciousness to make use of data originating from diverse and heterogeneous sources. When we look, for instance, at the papers collected by A.J. Marcel and E. Bisiach in the volume Consciousness in the Contemporary Science (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), we may notice that their authors quote not only results of precisely controlled experimental and clinical studies, but also information which might be regarded common sense lore. Thus, alongside data pertaining to brain functioning and typical of a natural science study, we find psychoanalytical interpretations of symbols characteristic of the humanities. The same is true of the present volume. It includes a number of empirical studies and also papers of a rather speculative nature. The editors hope that the diversity of attitudes and research may bring us closer to discovering new facts and/or finding new theoretical approaches to facts already known. Yet hope does not mean certainty and that is why they believe that the scientists’ efforts will certainly go on.