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The Act of Creation

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  250 ratings  ·  20 reviews
While the study of psychology has offered little in the way of explaining the creative process, Koestler examines the idea that we are at our most creative when rational thought is suspended--for example, in dreams and trancelike states. All who read The Act of Creation will find it a compelling and illuminating book.
Paperback, 752 pages
Published December 7th 1990 by Arkana/Penguin (first published 1964)
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For starters I've never read this book cover-to-cover, but have read most of it at least once over the past couple years.

In some 700 pages Koestler makes the case for a new way of understanding the relationship between art and science. He does this in a most dense and thorough way that I could not begin to explain here. Suffice it to say it is among the most difficult and most interesting writing I have ever come across. He loads his writing with fascinating examples and illustrating facts that
Patrick Nichols
Startlingly lucid account of our most wondrous and irrational faculty: creativity. In the space of a few chapters, Koestler throws light on the question of humor: what makes a joke funny? And why do we, unlike every other animal, laugh? But this conception, while the most illuminating view of humor I've read, is only the start of a much grander theory of our most profoundly human activities. He finds the unifying thread of the three great creative acts of mankind: Humor, Art, and Scientific Inve ...more
John Brooke
Here is one of my most treasured books. Without fail, I take it off the shelf and plunge right in to its insigntful observations and gentle humor. A valuable resource for the mind of an artist.
The Thompson Foundation
Can I give this a 5+ stars?

Fantastic book - comparison of art, science and humor and how they require similar creative processes, i.e. an orthogonal leap using combination of things that were already known. It puts scientists in their "proper" place, IMO, i.e. away from the "hard and stodgy rational,", and with the creative. Most scientists appreciate art and music - the reputation is unwarranted. Perhaps it comes from people we think are boring - i.e. those who start conversations by talking ab
Joseph Jupille
This is one of the finest books I have ever read. The act of creation is the bisociation of previously independent matrices of thought. Koestler is one of those amazing polymaths who ranges across the sciences, the arts, the humanities, the history of all of these things, and has got an awful lot of things figured out. It's not a breezy read, but it's astonishing and worth your time.
Read this book in college and found it one of the most inspiring books regarding creativity and the connections to our world. Changed my life.
From time immemorial the gift of creativity has been venerated almost as if it were divine.

If there is such a thing as creativity as thus defined, then it is clear that civilization must owe much, if not everything, to the individuals so gifted.

It is with the the work of children in our schools that we really ought to begin. How can we best detect the individuals who are endowed by nature with creative ability of this or that specific type?

comic simile <---> hidden analogy <---> poe
The Act of Creation begins where this view ceases to be true. Koestler affirms that all creatures have the capacity for creative activity, frequently suppressed by the automatic routines of thought and behavior that dominate their lives. The study of psychology has offered little in the way of an explanation of the creative process, and Koestler suggest that we are at our most creative when rational thought is suspended - for example in dreams and trance-like states. Then the mind is capable of ...more
Sergio Lepore
It's been many years since I read this but he basically demonstrates how creativity is interwoven with discovery in introducing a new term for my vocabulary: bisociation. Bisociation is where two heretofore unrealated/unconnected phenomena/ideas are indeed really at a much deeper/grander level very much so.
One of the things I greatly appreciate about Brazil and Brazilians is their great sense of humor, which I find to be very different from my home country. That made me want to learn more about humor itself: what is it actually? what's its role in human society and evolution? why and how is different from one culture to another? I was researching books about these questions but was not really successful in finding specific books or answers. But I came across this great book that asks such intrigui ...more
Book 1 is a lucid and well developed theory about the nature of creativity in the arts and science.

Book 2 is a poorly conceived attempt to extend these ideas into biology and psychology. The analogy is often strained and the science has not aged gracefully. There is a long section dedicated to beating the dead horse of behavioralism, for instance. Here the editors let AK down. Presumably, this is the reason the book has gone out of print. There are useful insights, such as his anticipation of th
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A fascinating and far reaching look at human creativity. In the first book, starting with humor and proceeding through science and art, Koestler looks at the history of human achievement. In book two, Koestler moves to the molecular scale and explains innovation and change at the genetic level. His knowledge of psychology, embryology, etc. allow him to make a connection between low-level organic processes and high-level creative thinking. All in all, a very interesting read.
A scientific analysis of the creative process. Koestler argues that the scientific discovery, the work of art, and the joke are all instances of creativity, and that the common element in each is “bisociation,” a term referring to the mental process in which two unlike things are put together. Lots of examples and clear descriptions of the ideas with which Koestler works. Entertaining, informative and accessible.
Enjoyed this almost as much as TGITM, will definitely read again. Koestler likes to work with analogies a lot, sometimes stretching them too far, IE, the graphs linking humor and convergent realities, which were perhaps funnier than the run of the mill jokes he cites at whim.
Recommended by... George Carlin!

Looks pretty heavy, but I'm really interested in brain function and the creative process. I'll drink coffee before starting :)
Great treatise on scientific and artistic creativity, and their overlaps. Amazingly, still very relevant today!
Aug 23, 2007 George marked it as to-read
man, have had this dang thing forever, need to read it:-)
Aug 17, 2007 Beth marked it as to-read
rec'd by evan hanover
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Arthur Koestler CBE [*Kösztler Artúr] was a prolific writer of essays, novels and autobiographies.

He was born into a Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest but, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria. His early career was in journalism. In 1931 he joined the Communist Party of Germany but, disillusioned, he resigned from it in 1938 and in 1940 published a devastating anti-Communis
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