Yuhang He's Blog

Some birds are not meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright.

Does Creative Work Necessarily Have to Establish Something New?

My interest in this topic is immediately ignited while reading a GRE verbal article. While it is nearly unanimously accepted that creative work has to create something new, or at least transcend or challenge the established one. Few of us really notice that this conclusion applies to some particular domain, especially in science and technology, but it is suspicious when applying to other aesthetic domains, like the arts. Above all, I can’t help presenting this article here verbatim, it is so so … beautiful.

Extraordinary creative activity has been characterized as revolutionary, flying in the face of what is established and producing not what is acceptable but what will become accepted. According to this formulation, highly creative activity transcends the limits of an existing form and establishes a new principle of organization. However, the idea that extraordinary creativity transcends established limits is misleading when it is applied to the arts, even tough it might be valid for the sciences.

This article directly points out art doesn’t follow this accepted tradition, while science might obey this tradition.

Difference between highly creative art and highly creative science arise in part from a difference in their goals. For the sciences, a new theory is the goal and end result of the creative act. Innovative science produces new propositions in terms of which diverse phenomena can be related to one another in more coherent ways. Such phenomena as a brilliant diamond or a nesting bird are relegated to the role of data, serving as the means for formulating or testing a new theory. The goal of highly creative art is very different: the phenomenon itself becomes the direct product of the creative art.

Furthermore, the article illustrates the difference between art and science by pointing out that their relevant goals are different, while the goal of science is to produce a new proposition that never existed before, the goal of an art sometimes is the art itself.


Shakespeare's Hamlet is not a tract about the behavior of indecisive princes or the uses of political power; nor is the Picasso's painting Guernica primarily a propositional statement about the Spanish Civil War or the evils of fascism. What highly creative artistic activity produces is not a new generalization that transcends established limits, but rather than aesthetic particular. Aesthetic particulars produced by the highly creative artist extend or exploit, in an innovative way, the limits of an existing form, rather than transcend that form.

More examples are provided to testify that artistic works are aimed at extending or exploiting, rather transcending any existed form.

This is not deny that a highly creative artist sometimes establishes a new principle of organization in the history of an art field; the composer Monteverdi, who created music of the highest aesthetic value, comes to mind. More generally, however, whether or not a composition establishes a new principle in the history of music has little bearing on its aesthetic worth. Because they embody a new principle of organization, some musical works, such as the peras of the Florentine Camerata, are of signal historical importance. but few listeners or musicologists would include these among the great works of music, On the other hand, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is surely among the masterpieces of the misc even though its modest innovations are confined to extending existing means, It has been said of Beethoven that he toppled the rules and freed music from the stifling confines of convention. But a close study of his compositions reveals that Beethoven overturned no fundamental rules. Rather he was an incomarable strategist who exploited limits - the rules, forms and conventions that he inherited from predecessors such as Haydn and Mozart, Handel and Bach - in strickingly original ways.

I wasn’t able to fully understand the true difference between science and art until this article cleared the air.