A New Approach to Creativity - Enactive Cognition

Creativity is a process

A new approach to human creativity rests upon the enactive approach to cognition.

What is this?

To enact is to carry something out — things come about through action. It is a co-creative approach: we come about through more-than-human action.

This approach develops a new understanding of who we are, & how we are in the world as active co-creating beings.

This can be summed up by as “4EA”:


Our brains are part of our unique bodies. Moving, grasping, sensing, and acting with specific bodies gives rise to our forms of thinking which in turn feeds back into the forming of our bodies’ abilities. Changing the body and changing the body’s habits/actions will change how you think. ‍


Thinking happens with tools — tools that have agency. In thinking the appropriate set of partners are assembled: diverse brain regions + specific embodied actions + necessary external artifacts, into a holistic coalition to enact thinking. This means that to think creatively we need to focus on new tools, techniques, and practices and connect them experimentally into effective novel assemblages.


Thinking is embedded in a specific concrete environment and this environment shapes and patterns thinking. Rooms, houses, & the patterns of sidewalk are fundamental not simply to thinking in general but to why our thinking gravitates towards certain patterns, logics, and outcomes. ‍


Thinking is fundamentally tied to acting — to doing where meaning arises via our actions. Meaning and thought arise during situated actions that are in a context of being co-determined along with our environment. Doing en-acts meaning into being.


While we do use logic — our intellectual lives and all of our thinking rests upon an emotional foundation that is continuous with, colors and saturates all experience. Experience and thoughts bubble up out of an emotional atmosphere — tone — that is our most basic sense of being alive. Most of the time we are not even aware of this emotional (affect) shaping our thoughts — emotion is working at a subconscious and minimally conscious level.

It is important to see that this view is not just adding a bunch of external stuff to thinking that needs to be considered.

This is a holistic and emergent view — the “we” who is thinking is not just a brain or a body but the whole integrated assemblage — the situated and active brain-body-environment: “When the constituents of a system are highly coherent, integrated, and correlated such that their properties are nonlinear functions of one another, the system cannot be treated as just a collection of uncoupled parts. Thus, the activity of strongly non-linearly coupled brain, body, and environment cannot be ultimately explained by decomposing them into subsystems, or system and background. They are one extended system.” (Chemero & Silberstein).

Who is creative? The extended system…

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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