Does academia suppress creativity?

“Creativity enhances life. It enables the great thinkers, artists, and leaders of our world to continually push forward new concepts, new forms of expression and new ways to improve every facet of our existence. <…> Unfortunately, in the academic world—where much of today’s scientific innovation takes place—researchers are encouraged to maintain the status quo and not “rock the boat.” This mentality is pervasive, affecting all aspects of scientific research from idea generation to funding to the training of the next generation of scientists”.

Fred Southwick wrote this a year ago in “The Scientist“. Even stronger these bitter observations apply to the state of the academic humanities: while dealing with the most creative human endeavors (arts, literature, language, philosophy), they are even less creative, experimental and transformative in their methods than sciences. Why?

Southwick explains the prevalence of the status quo in sciences by the conservative academic leadership and research funding. Are these reasons sufficient to explain the stagnation in the humanities? Or should we address much deeper methodological issues? Why are the humanities, even in contrast to sciences and scientific technologies,  so obsessed with the past and so indifferent to the future, to the human potential?

Mikhail Epstein


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