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The Act of Creation

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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.

752 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1964

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About the author

Arthur Koestler

248 books811 followers
Darkness at Noon (1940), novel of Hungarian-born British writer Arthur Koestler, portrays his disillusionment with Communism; his nonfiction works include The Sleepwalkers (1959) and The Ghost in the Machine (1967).

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-Communist novel, Darkness at Noon, which propelled him to instant international fame.

Over the next forty-three years he espoused many causes, wrote novels and biographies, and numerous essays. In 1968 he was awarded the prestigious and valuable Sonning Prize "For outstanding contribution to European culture", and in 1972 he was made a "Commander of the British Empire" (CBE).

In 1976 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and three years later with leukaemia in its terminal stages. He committed suicide in 1983 in London.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
Profile Image for John Brooke.
Author 7 books25 followers
September 17, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Patrick Nichols.
88 reviews4 followers
December 28, 2014
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 Inventiveness. One of those books that changes your understanding of consciousness forever.
Profile Image for Aaron.
309 reviews43 followers
December 1, 2008
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 keep you engaged throughout. I often go back to reading this book in my free time, or between other books.

I would strongly NOT recommend this book for the general public. I have a copy that states on the back flap that this was in 1967 assigned reading to incoming students at Radcliffe College; I cannot think of many graduate students that would have gotten much more from this that boredom and frustration. It would be of interest to people with significant background in the social science, and possibly natural sciences. It would also be of interest to people who study the history of ideas.

The book is the second book in the unofficial trilogy of Koestler's works, beginning with The Sleepwalkers and ending with Ghost in the Machine. Act of Creation is itself divided in two: "Book I: The Art of Discovery and the Discoveries of Art"; and "Book II: Habit and Originality". The each book explains the same material, with the first taking a broader scope, and the second working "from the ground up" to explain the same ideas in much more technical language.
Profile Image for Liedzeit Liedzeit.
Author 1 book68 followers
January 19, 2022
In this magnificent book Arthur Koestler tries nothing less than to explain the act of creation. And what he does he sheds some light on the question of how creativity emerges. He looks at three seemingly totally different areas, humour, science and art.

In his earlier book "Sleepwalkers" he has presented a fascinating (and maybe idiosyncratic) history of science. Many of the themes and topics return. We certainly meet Galileo and his hero Kepler again. But he tries to go deeper.

Some of his examples are well-known, like the discovery of the Archimedes principle. Some were new to me, like the studies of Köhler about the Mentality of Apes.

One thing I am inclined to be very sceptical about is his claim that "true creativity starts where language ends." (p. 177)

But he has Einstein as a witness who is quoted: "The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought." (p. 171)

On the other hand he gives examples how languages changes and literally creates new ways of thinking. He quotes Alice (for a long time a must-reference in any piece of analytical philosophy): "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?" to show that "in some forms of intellectual activity language is not only an indespensable tool, but that the stream of language actually carries the thought."

One example is "Space" and "Time". Space taken as an abstract concept, he says, did not exist in medival times. "It was merely an attribute of material bodies. Empty space was unthinkable: "Nobody in his senses would have said that things moved through space or in time – how can a thing move in or through an attribute of itself?" (p.175)

Then in 1277 a council in Paris declared that the Aristotelean doctrine that God could not create empty of infinite space was wrong. So empty space and infinite space became thinkable.

The book is full of anecdotes and also of some original thinking. And of course, some neologisms like bisociation and egomorphism (the pendant to anthropomorphism), meaning the tendency to assume that other must feel like I do.

In another examlple he beautifully explains how training changes behaviour. Talking about a chess novice who has to remind himself at the beginnig how pieces move and maybe has to consult a book of rules:

"After some practice it becomes impossible for him to move a rook diagonally without a feeling of aesthetic and moral
revulsion, of having committed an obscenity or violated a sacred taboo: the rules have become automatized, encoded in his nervous system." 156

A truly wonderful book. But, written after all by a (brilliant) layman. So one should not take everything at face value. One blunder that I find quite shocking is when he assigns the quip that philosophy consists in nothing but footnotes to Plato to the wrong guy: Popper!

Profile Image for Jimmy Ele.
232 reviews88 followers
November 10, 2018
This book took me almost 3 months to get through. It is an amazing book no doubt, the reason it took me so long (besides work) is that it is so dense at times, that 10 or 20 pages suffices for a few days to ponder on. I am grateful to this book for examining the aspect of creation in humans. I am especially grateful for the explanation of the idea of the bisocation of matrices which lead to discoveries and mind expanding works of art. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the mind of man and what man does when he "discovers" or "creates" works of art whether in science, poetry, painting, medicine, mathematics, or other fields.
Profile Image for Anne.
131 reviews17 followers
May 9, 2016
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.
October 7, 2009
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 about the weather.
Profile Image for Joseph Jupille.
Author 4 books17 followers
May 21, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Lysergius.
3,032 reviews
June 18, 2019
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 receiving inspiration and insight.

Taking humour as his starting point, Koestler examines what he terms 'bisociative' thinking - the creative leap made by the mind that gives rise to new and startling perceptions and glimpses of reality. From here he assesses the workings of the mind of the scientific or artistic genius. The general reader as well as the reader with a deeper knowledge of the topics covered will find this richly documented study of creativity both illuminating and compelling.
Profile Image for Dan.
995 reviews104 followers
June 30, 2022
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.

Acquired 1993
The Word, Montreal, Quebec
Profile Image for D.
495 reviews2 followers
June 20, 2013
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 <---> poetic image
witticism <---> epigram <---> trouvaille
satire <---> social analysis <---> allegory
impersonation <---> empathy <---> illusion
caricature <---> schematisation <---> stylisation
pun <---> word puzzle <---> rhyme
riddle <---> problem <---> allusion
debunking <---> discovering <---> revealing
coincidence <---> trigger <---> fate
bathos <---> shortcut <---> pathos

The Jester

The Logic of Laughter
The Triptych

Humor, Discovery and Art
Laughter is a reflex
Humor is the only domain of creative activity where a stimulus on a high level of complexity produces a massive and sharply defined response on the level of physiological reflexes.

Across the first page of the Christmas issue of the Catholic Universe Bulletin, Cleveland’s official Catholic diocesan newspaper ran this eight-column banner head:

“It’s a boy in Bethlehem.
Congratulations God - congratulations Mary - congratulations Joseph”

the riposte which appeared in the New Yorker:

“We wanted a girl.”

Hidden Persuaders

The controls of a skilled activity generally function below the level of consciousness on which that activity takes place. The code is a hidden persuader.

Visual constancies enable us to recognize the size, brightness, shape of objects

Habit and Originality

Two ways of escaping our more or less automatized routines of thinking and behaving: plunge into dreaming or dream-like states when the codes of rational thinking are suspended. Or escape from boredom, stagnation, intellectual predicaments and emotional frustration - by the spontaneous flash of insight. It makes us ‘understand what it is to be awake, to be living on several planes at one” TS Eliot

Henri Bergson: the main sources of the comic are the mechanical attributes of inertia, rigidity and repetitiveness impinging on life (Jack-in-the-Box)

homme-automate - the focal or bi-focal concept of all sciences of life. man-automaton

Relief from stress is always pleasurable regardless of whether it was caused by hunger, sex, anger or anxiety.

Laughter rings the bell of man’s departure from the rails of instinct.
“Infinity is where things happen which don’t.” - anonymous schoolboy to his mathematics master

Coincidence, Nonsense, Tickling

… And what could be moister
Than tears from an oyster?

The ever-so-slight feeling of uncertainty and apprehension ~ tickling: let me be just a little frightened so that I can enjoy the relief.

Originality, Emphasis Economy

Words have suggestive, evocative powers; but at the same time they are merely stepping stones for thought. Economy means spacing them at intervals just wide enough to require a significant effort from the receiver of the message; the artist rules his subjects by turning them into accomplices.

A clever joke: the pleasant after-glow of admiration and intellectual satisfaction

‘Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive. What they conceal is vital.’

In 1960, an anecdote in the form of an imaginary dialogue circulated in the satellite countries of the East:

Tell me, Comrade, what is capitalism?
The exploitation of man by man.
And what is Communism?
The reverse.

it has the same power of sudden illumination as an epigram by Voltaire.

(An epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement)

The less suggestive and the more implicit the joke, the more will the consumer’s reactions approximate the producer’s -- whose mental effort he is compelled to re-create.

Si Natura negat, facit indignatio versum - Juvenal
If Nature says no, anger was turned
Though nature say me nay, indignation will prompt my verse

The emotions in question are those of the self-assertive, aggressive-defensive type, which are based on the sympathico-adrenal system and tend to beget bodily activity. Their counterparts are the participatory or self-transcending emotions -- compassion, identification, raptness --- which are mediated by physiological processes of a different type and tend to discharge not in laughter but in tears.

Laughter is a luxury reflex which could arise only in a creature whose reason has gained a degree of autonomy from the urges of emotion, and enables him to perceive his own emotions as redundant -- to realize that he has been fooled.

Matrices vary from fully automatized skills to those with a high degree of plasticity; but even the latter are controlled by rules of the game which function below the level of awareness. Habits are the indispensable core of stability and ordered behavior; they also have a tendency to become mechanized and to reduce man to the status of a conditioned automaton. The creative act, by connecting previously unrelated dimensions of experience, enables him to attain to a higher level of mental evolution. It is an act of liberation -- the defeat of habit by originality.

That animals can display originality and inventiveness has been asserted since Aesop

One should not underestimate ripeness as a factor facilitating discoveries, which as the saying goes, are ‘in the air.’

The Latin verb cogito for ‘to think’ etymologically means ‘to shake together.’

Alchemist’s Rosarium - for finding the Philosopher’s Stone:

“The Stone can only be found when the search lies heavily on the searcher. -- Thou seekest hard and findest not. Seek not and thou wilst find.

Souriau: to invent you must think aside

Fleming: One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.

The history of discovery is full of such arrivals at unexpected destinations, and arrivals at the right destination by the wrong boat.

Thinking in pictures dominates the manifestations of the unconscious -- the dream, the half-dream, the psychotic’s hallucinations, the artist’s vision

Separations and reintegrations

After the Macedonian conquest of Greece there followed a period of consolidation, orthodoxy, and decline. Aristotle’s categories became the grammar of existence, his animal spirits ruled the world of physics, everything worth knowing was already known and everything inventable already invented. The Heroic Age was guided by the example of Prometheus stealing the fire of the gods; the philosophers of the Hellenistic period dwelt in Plato’s cave, drawing epicycles on the wall, their backs turned to the daylight of reality.

p 227 After that there came a period of hibernation lasting for 15 centuries. During that time the march of science was not only halted, but its direction reversed.

there were hopeful stirrings.. the budding universities at Oxford and Cambridge, Salerno, Bologna and Paris...

The recurrent cycle of periods of crisis and creative anarchy precede new synthesis.

When the ritualized worship of the Olympian gods and demi-gods could no longer provide answers to the ultimate questions after the meaning of existence. Mythology had become a ‘blocked matrix’

Burnet: No sooner did an Ionian philosopher learn half a dozen geometrical propositions and hear that the phenomena of the heavens recur in cycles than he set to work to look for law everywhere in nature and with an audacity amounting to hubris to construct a system of the universe.

Science and Emotion

The Artist, the Jester, the Sage

Benevolent Magician and Mad Professor

Art is a form of communication which aims at eliciting a re-creative echo. Education should be regarded as an art, and use the appropriate techniques of art to call forth that echo. Man cannot inherit the past; he has to re-create it.

The logic of the moist eye

Laughter and Weeping

Excepting saints and maniacs, our emotions nearly always consist of mixed feelings, where both tendencies participate in the mixture. extraordinary cocktail of emotions

Walter de la Mare:
It’s a very odd thing --
As odd as can be --
That whatever Miss T eats
Turns into Miss T.

Verbal creation

The Power of Illusion

Rhythm and Rhyme


Cold blows the wind on my true love
And a few small drops of rain --


Originality and Emphasis

To name the thing means forsaking three quarters of a poem’s enjoyment -- which is derived from unravelling it gradually by happy guesswork: to suggest the thing creates the dream. Symbols are formed when this secret is used to perfection; to evoke little by little, the image of an object in order to demonstrate a mood.

Make the message more luminous by compelling the recipient to work it out by himself -- to re-create it. Hence the message must be handed to him in implied form -- and implied means ‘folded in.’ To make it unfold, he must fill in the gaps, complete the hint, see through the symbolic disguise. But the audience tends to become more sophisticated with time; so the message must be made more implicit, more tightly folded. It is the antidote to the law of diminishing returns in the domain of the emotions.

The history of art could be written in terms of the artist’s struggle against the deadening cumulative effect of saturation. The way out of the cul-de-sac is either revolutionary departure towards new horizons or the re-discovery of past techniques, or a combination of both.

Leave out everything that is irrelevant, and everything that is obvious.
Hemingway advised a young writer: The more bloody good stuff you cut out the more bloody good your novel will be.

Trains of thought run faster than a century ago, on tracks beaten smooth by mass media and torrents of print.

Milton: Nymphs and shepherds, dance no more --

puppets and strings

The mental equivalent for the less spectacular routine regeneration of tissues designed to compensate for wear and tear is the nocturnal regressions to the primitive levels of the dream.

‘It is wonderful to see how analogies can blossom when they are given a little affection.”

Multidimensional aspects of thinking:
1) Degrees of consciousness
2) Degrees of verbalization
3) Degrees of abstraction
4) Degrees of flexibility
5) Type and intensity of motivation
6) Realistic versus autistic thought
7) Dominance of outer or inner environment
8) Learning and performing
9) Routine and originality.

Habit Originality
Dynamic equilibrium Activation of regenerative potentials
Rigid to flexible variations on a theme Super-flexibility (reculer pour mieux sauter)
Repetitiveness Novelty
Conservative Destructive-Constructive.
Profile Image for mavromou.
144 reviews4 followers
January 30, 2018
Luego de muchos intentos, pude hacerme un tiempo para leer completo este maravilloso libro de Koestler. No es el primer libro que leo del autor, ni será el ultimo...

Abarcando toda actividad humana (la que divide entre ciencia, arte y humor), Koestler hace un estudio muy profundo de varios autores y de varias experiencias científicas para demostrar la tesis principal del libro.

El acto de la creación ocurre mediante un proceso cuya dinamica principal es similar en los descubrimientos científicos, en manifestaciones artísticas y en el humor.

Si bien los temas que trata y las referencias que cita (sobre todo sobre la historia de la ciencia) son super interesantes, no es un libro fácil de leer, muchas veces pareciera que se aleja mucho del tema central, pero luego retoma el tema y utiliza esa rama perdida en la trama de su tesis para explicar una idea o concepto que usa para fundamentar su tesis.

La bisociación, el concepto principal que desarrolla para explicar el proceso que ocurre en la ciencia, el arte y el humor lo vengo estudiando hace tiempo y para aquel que le interese les dejo este link:


Es interesante como Koestler tiene una forma de justamente bisociar (asociar conceptos lejanos sin un contexto en común) y puede por analogía explicar los mecanismos en el arte, la ciencia y el humor los cuales tienen muchos más puntos en común que los que uno pensaría a primera vista.

Por momentos Koestler pareciera ser un gran pionero y precursor de varios conceptos en creatividad que hoy resultan importantes. Y leyendo a autores más actuales, pareciera que estos tomaron varios conceptos de este libro, cosa difícil de verificar dado que no le han dado crédito.

En relación al humor, creo que hasta donde estoy viendo, no sé si resulta uno de los estudios más completos sobre el tema, pero si profundiza en temas centrales del humor y el plus que le da al compararlo con procesos en la ciencia y en el arte hacen más fácil comprender los mecanismos del humor. En mas de una oportunidad cita a Bergson, en su ensayo «La Risa» que conocí a través de él y que también leí este año...

Es un libro recomendable para las personas curiosas sobre el tema, que gusten de las analogías, y que suelen ponerse a leer los libros con la mente abierta sin prejuicios.

Para los que estudiamos la creatividad, creo que es de lectura obligatoria, al menos una vez, yo puedo decir que es la primera vez que lo leo completo, pero no la última (es un libro para volver a releer con mas atención algunas partes super interesantes).

Para finalizar lamento no haber encontrado un ejemplar en español. Seguiré buscando.
Profile Image for dv.
1,212 reviews44 followers
July 4, 2018
Il libro non si giova molto del suo titolo (nemmeno nell'originale inglese), che fa pensare a qualcosa di "divino" e svia potenzialmente il lettore dal vero contenuto del testo, cioè la creatività.È lo stesso Koestler a chiarirlo: «L'atto creativo non è un atto di creazione nel senso del Vecchio Testamento. Non crea dal nulla: discopre, seleziona, mescola, combina, sintetizza fatti, idee capacità, tecniche già esistenti. Tanto più le parti sono familiari, tanto più il nuovo tutto sarà sorprendente.» (pp.109-110)Questa è l'idea chiave del libro, esemplificata da uno schema che mette in relazione tre figure apparentemente distanti, il comico, lo scienziato e l'artista, dimostrando che ciò che li unisce è esattamente la creatività, intesa come interazione fra matrici di percezione e sistemi di riferimento e ragionamento diversi. Nel caso del comico, vi è una collisione che conduce al riso; nel caso dello scienziato una fusione che porta a una scoperta; nel caso dell'artista un confronto (metaforico) che porta all'opera d'arte. Per il resto, il libro dimostra molta erudizione sui tre fronti, soprattutto quello scientifico (la parte sul "saggio" occupa molto più spazio di quello sul "buffone" e sull'artista).
February 16, 2018
I'm not rating this book because I tried--and failed--to finish it three times since the start of the year. I was told about this book and its help in the creative writing process, so of course I went and got it. The problem is the format--I can't stand it.

It feels like some major technical work, some thesis about writing and the mechanics as if regurgitated at a lecture. I just tried and tried to read it and I'd keep giving up after about every 10 pages. I've read and have dozens of other books on writing and all the things I could hope for. I've read some snippets of Koestler's works before, and some quotes I like from him, but I really can't stand this huge volume I slogged through for over a month and barely got 100 pages in.

I just couldn't get invested. Not my cup of tea, but others may appreciate.
Profile Image for Searchingthemeaningoflife Greece.
724 reviews16 followers
May 26, 2019
- Το να έχει κανείς το κεφάλι του στα σύννεφα δεν τον εμποδίζει από το να πατάει σταθερά στη γή. Ο επιστήμονας, όπως κι ο καλλιτέχνης, πρέπει να ζει σύγχρονα σε πολλά επίπεδα, να κοιτάζει την αιωνιότητα μέσα από το παραθύρι του χρόνου. Όλες οι μεγάλες επιστημονικές μεγαλοφυίες είχαν αυτό το συγκεκριμένο χάρισμα του δυαδισμού των ικανοτήτων τους· είχαν ένα μυαλό πού γενίκευε και ένα μάτι που έπεφτε στις πιο μηδαμινές λεπτομέρειες'

- Συνήθως, δε γνωρίζουμε τίποτα για τον τελικό μας προσανατολισμό, ή για το τέρμα προς το οποίο οδεύουμε, και το ρεύμα μας σαρώνει προς έναν τύπο ζωής, από τον όποιο δεν υπάρχει δρόμος επιστροφής. Κάθε απόφαση μας είναι ��αι ένας φόνος και στην πορεία μας προς τα μπρος βαδίζουμε πάνω από τα νεκρογεννημένα κορμιά όλων των δυνατών Εγώ μας που δεν θα υπάρξουν ποτέ.[...]
Profile Image for Jeremiah.
129 reviews1 follower
October 12, 2019
Koestler discusses with remarkable clarity and eloquence the psychology of creativity, namely in terms of humor, discovery, and art. I found Book I very interesting and thought-provoking, and, having read it, I'm afraid now I will be over-analyzing human thought and behavior even more than before. I especially appreciated his discussion on our "current" (ca. 1964 but still true today) mindset regarding technology and our approach to scientific education. Book II goes into the mechanics and implications of the psychological processes involving creativity. I did not find Book II nearly as interesting, but that is due to my motivation for reading the book.
Profile Image for earthshattering.
73 reviews
August 31, 2020
What an odd book. Clearly this man did not have an editor that took their job seriously, because most of it is rambling and unclear. A lot of words, very advanced words, await the reader of this circuitous, winding mess of a book. There are good parts in this book, most notably the parts that describe the specifics of scientists' histories of discoveries, and their experience with creativity. The most valuable aspect of this book to me is that the author believes that creativity is independent of many other qualities, and elegance and aesthetics has its place in scientific research. It takes a lot to get there, but hopefully hard-earned lessons stay with you longer.
Profile Image for Goran Jankuloski.
185 reviews17 followers
December 13, 2020
E, jebiga.

Puno sam ocekivao. Fino se zaletelo. Cilj knjige je ispunjen dosta rano: dokazati da je kreativni cin isti u komediji, nauci i umetnosti.

I onda se izgubilo. Veci deo knjige besciljno meandrira kroz pedanteriju zapazanja o nauci i umetnosti. Nabode u tome dobrih uvida, ali ih i preoptereti filozofskim pretenzijama.

A onda u Knjizi Drugoj te pretenzije podviljaju u orgiji zargona, referenci i definicija. Necitljivo.
Profile Image for Jon Norimann.
405 reviews5 followers
April 19, 2020
This book is too long, too poorly written and too old (as of year 2020). Koestler tries to explain how the human brain works, and fails. I think the only way this 800 page brick of a book can be seen as interesting is if you want to become up to date on the state of psychology's brain research in 1964. Stay away if thats not your cup of tea!
16 reviews
April 17, 2021
mizah kavramı üzerine kuramsal ve açıklayıcı bir kitap, yaratma eylemi kitabının bir bölümünden alınıp kitap haline getirilmiş. değerli bilgiler barındırıyor.
Profile Image for David.
1,298 reviews24 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
February 7, 2023
Have decided this is not for me and so off to a "Little Free Library," from whence it came, I believe.
Profile Image for Kai Weber.
419 reviews28 followers
June 25, 2016
In this book Koestler assumes a high vantage point on the topic set by the book's title: To him the creation of a work of art and the creation of scientific insight and knowledge is driven by the same mechanisms. I always find writers who manage to combine the arts and the sciences into a larger unit more attractive than those who overstress the boundary, at least those who do so habitually (which is often the case with humanities scholars). Koestler elaborates: "The criteria of truth differ from criteria of beauty in that the former refer to cognitive, the latter to emotive processes, but neither of them are absolute."
Some of Koestler's observations may sound trifle in themselves, but the integrative power and the arguments he builds over this long-form essay are convincing in the end. And sometimes we need the obvious to be explicitly stated, because our human apparatus of perception makes us often enough overlook it, e.g. "If one goes on sowing cabbage seeds, one cannot expect them to grow into mimosas - but that hardly gives one a right to denounce belief in the existence of mimosas as a superstition; and if one puts a creature into a Skinner Box, it will behave as one expects a creature in a Skinner Box to behave- with certain quantitative variations which are gratifyingly measurable, but still refer to behaviour in a Skinner Box." The only bad taste that this book left in my mouth were the occasional psychoanalytical explanations of driving forces, which seem already a bit dated by today, though they were certainly taken for granted in the 1960s when Koestler wrote this book. Some other aspects of Koestler's book, on the other hand, seem to have become even more relevant and true now, as compared to when the book was first published: "Modern man lives isolated in his artificial environment, not because the artificial is evil as such, but because of his lack of comprehension of the forces which make it work - of the principles which relate his gadgets to the forces of nature, to the universal order. It is not central heating which makes his existence 'unnatural', but his refusal to take an interest in the principles behind it. By being entirely dependent on science, yet closing his mind to it, he leads the life of an urban barbarian." Our world today is so full with cultural pessimists who see every new development in technology as another grave-stone on the cemetary of humanity, and hardly any of these pessimists actually spends any effort in trying to understand what is going on. Again, that's plain old folk-lore (as my mother used to say: "The farmer doesn't eat what he doesn't know"), but we could thank Koestler for pointing it out in these strong words.

P.S.: I've written this review two days after Great Britain has decided to exit the Europe Union. Arthur Koestler, a born (Austro-)Hungarian who became British is a continental European flower that decorated the UK very well. Wish them luck that they'll remain attractive not only to the managers of hedge funds, but also to those proponents of the beauty and the mind.
Profile Image for Matthias.
4 reviews
November 2, 2012
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 intriguing questions such as "the logic of laughter", "varieties of humor", "imprinting and imitation". Most importantly though, the book outlines how creative thinking is the common thread in humor, science and arts. It is a brilliant and enlightening narrative, although it can be also a somewhat heavy reading at times.
Profile Image for Frank.
741 reviews38 followers
July 4, 2015
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 the concept of encapsulation, but AK would have been better advised to address these subjects in a separate book. He seems to have doubts himself, writing at the end of chapter V: "The reader may consider some of these conclusions trivial, others perhaps as rash generalizations."
Profile Image for John.
4 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2013
My interest in this book is from the perspective of illustration and sculpture. Be fore warned; there is a lot more in this book than just from the fine arts community. There are a variety of fields of creative endeavour analyzed and talked about. Comedy, characterization, emotions, poetry and the ceative language of the human body are all talked about. The language used in the book is a bit dated but subject matter is gold for those interested in learning about what the creative process is and how it works. I would recommend reading this book in a group setting. Where you can discuss the ideas together because a lot of this material is subject to interpretation and it helps talking to some else and learning about how they interpreted the same material you read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Matt.
139 reviews5 followers
March 24, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Sergio Lepore.
1 review2 followers
December 14, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Ross Taylor.
6 reviews
March 9, 2020
Very thoughtful book on how ideas come to be in science, comedy and art. The key idea is bijection : two "frames of reference" intersecting leading to an "aha" moment that was previously not seen or overlooked. The book is full of interesting accounts on the process of "ideation" and the special moments when ideas come to be.
14 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2010
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.
64 reviews
March 15, 2022
The first part, analyzing humour from a physical/biological perspective, is spectacular.
It gets dense and dry, but there are insights about our creative mind that you won't find anywhere else. It's an important book of you want to understand human nature.
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