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The Act of Creation

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  411 ratings  ·  32 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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John Brooke
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brain-works
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.
Patrick Nichols
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
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
Aaron
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
...more
Jimmy Ele
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 ma ...more
Anne
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
The Thompson Foundation
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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.
Lysergius
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dan
Mar 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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.
D
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
wit
...more
mavromou
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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,
...more
dv
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: filosofia
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 sorprenden ...more
Searchingthemeaningoflife Greece
[...]
- 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 προσανατολ
...more
Tally, The Chatty Introvert
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
...more
Jeremiah Tesch
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 impli ...more
Jon Norimann
Apr 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
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!
Kai Weber
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fro ...more
Matthias
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
John
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-theory
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frank
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Matt
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sergio Lepore
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ross Taylor
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Barbelo
Sep 18, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
John
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 :)
Bruce Smith
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
DNF, I'm sure there are better, newer books on the subject. It is one of the original works on the subject, but it is showing its age.
Leslie
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great treatise on scientific and artistic creativity, and their overlaps. Amazingly, still very relevant today!
Beth
Aug 17, 2007 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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