Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ingenuity and Iniquity

Of the things one could connect to dishonesty, the characteristic of being creative is probably the last we’d even consider.  A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that people who require more creativity in their jobs are more likely to engage in underhanded behavior at work. It’s commonly harmless or at least mitigated compared to tax fraud or such things, but the idea is that those with a tendency to be inventive also can find ways to justify their behavior. This is, however, highly correlation based. There are plenty of creative people who most likely don’t behave like this and many who aren’t creative that do. The inverse may be the case: doing immoral things may lead to more creative thinking in the future by virtue of going outside expected norms and laws. This could be a good thing, but the potential abuse still remains. If being creative is a quality of any person, the more they have, there is a higher chance they may have a habit of being unethical, even if it’s simple things like skimping on a tip.  These two relations pose a question of how our ethical behavior is related to creativity and vice versa. Are we ethical because we lack creativity or do we become more creative by breaking ethical norms?

Ethics could conceivably emerge from our ignoring creativity and seeing what is predictable and what is practical, benefitting the whole instead of the parts. This is not to say we can’t appreciate innovation, but it still has to be within boundaries of some sorts. Art schools won’t let a student just go anywhere with their ventures, especially when religion or politics are concerned. If you go too far with them, you’re threatening stability and offending people. While the former might be grounds for genuine ethical concerns, the latter is guaranteed with any endeavor in the arts or just in conversations. Someone will find your opinions unbelievable and strive to change your ways. So ethics, in this theory, serve as a safeguard against people breaking out of the limitations society implicitly places upon the arts, so as not to disrupt order. Of course there is the possibility that this isn’t ethics so much as tradition, norms and mores, all of which are prone to be shattered in one way or another and a common perspective is that these don’t really hurt the common good, since they aren’t automatically galvanizing people to action, but bringing things to the surface that were once hidden. In that sense, creativity and ethics can coexist in this model, which is hopefully what can be accomplished with the other.

Creativity may emerge from ignoring the mundane and seeing things in a new light, breaking down boundaries and limits we put on ourselves. In this context, creativity is more beneficial than ethics, at least in the sense that new things can aid us with time and experimentation. Of course with any such novelty, especially scientific discoveries, one should be careful, which is applying a sort of ethics to the process. But to prohibit new ideas because they threaten a status quo or the like under the guise of ethics or morals is where such things as censorship arise from. This is where creativity is good, but like ethics before, there is the potential for abuse in creativity for its own sake instead of benefitting society with discoveries in medicine, or even mere aesthetic appreciation in the arts. But to have some kind of message behind our creations is important as well even if it is simply observing something already presented by others. To put a new spin on it is where imagination can bring new vigor and awe to life that we became accustomed to. Those that are abnormal can many times have a view on things that is not damaging, but actually edifying and building us up more by bringing together so many myriad vantages and resulting impressions. This is not to say there isn’t a point where we cut off the genius from the insane, of course. But the potential for creativity’s abuse should not make us stifle it entirely for the sake of security either.

Creativity and ethics can coexist, but it remains difficult to focus entirely on one or the other without recognizing a need for both depending on context and circumstance. Being creative might be a way people justify their otherwise unethical actions or it might simply be a consequence of the imagination going wild and people motivated by their ingenuity to go outside the norm, which doesn’t always equal being immoral, but heterodox at best. Creativity has potential for corruption, but is not evil in itself. Ethics benefit us, as well as possessing potential for excess or deficit as with any good thing. And immorality is sometimes only judged as such, but is not necessarily evil at all, but merely pushing boundaries beyond stiff and resistant traditions and normalcy. Fundamentally, equity and moderation are necessary to maintaining a cohesive and dynamic whole person, which includes both being civil to other human beings, but also realizing that you can’t please everyone and someone at sometime is going to be offended by you and there’s nothing that can be done except move forward. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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