Monday, November 3, 2014

Creativity & Dogma

I must say I am greatly pleased by the reprinting of this classic book by Edward de Bono on Lateral Thinking now entitled "An Introduction" after all the years of elaborating on the teaching of the concept, as opposed to the original title of "The Use of Lateral Thinking."

Lateral thinking is as opposed to vertical or logical thinking. In vertical or logical thinking, the whole argument is built upon a particular premise which, in a broad perspective, must be seen as arbitrarily came upon in the first place. From that one premise is built the whole gamut of logical conclusions of various types and eventually ending up with the ultimate extreme logical conclusion. Philosophers are familiar with the situation when logic, taken to extreme, is reduced to absurdity.

de Bono cited the case of the science of physics when physicists felt utter confident of themselves thinking that they really had attained the full knowledge of the physical laws of nature until Einstein came along which then threw the physicists into a tailspin and the realisation that the study of physics was only starting for real.

The same application of logic taken to extreme would apply to all branches of knowledge including branches of religion which claim to have a logical fundamental premise. The clinging onto a single basic premise and the building up of the whole infrastructure of logic to support ultimate conclusions must, in the extreme, lead to absurdity when the conclusions can no longer be supposed by facts and the observations of reality. This is pure dogma.

Lateral thinking seems to challenge the fundamental basic premise used in any branch of knowledge, and to explore alternative basic premises in the hope of discovery one that is most useful for explaining the world as we currently observe it to be, or the beginning of a better understanding of the world or where we as human beings are in the world. de Bono likens this search to the oilman who dig holes in different locations in the hope of discovery more oil, rather than digging deeper and wider a single hole. I would liken the exercise to the venture capitalist who is looking for projects that will give supernatural returns, and the venture capitalist must spread his investments among many projects in the hope that even a small handful of successful projects will be worth his troubles.

In Malaysia, we are fighting a hard and battle to stimulate some form of creativity in our cultural and living environment in the hope that this economy of ours can stand on each of our own two feet, before we finally run completely out of oil and gas to comfort us. There is now the changing climate in education where English is now slowly reclaiming some of its rightful ground as a medium of instruction so that our children can learn to read works of knowledge in their originally written language. There is still plenty of work to be done for creativity to reign in our society. Perhaps we need to think laterally as we fight age-old dogmas and rigidity of minds promulgated by the uneducated and unlearned and the ignorant.

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