“I sincerely believe that to save the humanities, within which I include philosophy, we are going to have to reconceive what we do as at least in part a creative endeavor—literary, artistic, imaginative, playful, in short, all those things of which a human spirit is capable, and a machine never will be.”
That’s Justin Smith-Ruiu in a post at The Hinternet.
It seems to me that introducing a creative dimension into the practice of philosophy is all the more urgent in the present era, when increasingly machines are able to do the drudge work of regurgitating corpora of knowledge that we used to think of as intrinsic to any rigorous program of humanistic study. Ask a student to write a paper on, say, whether Descartes’s Cogito is a “speech act” or not, and there’s an ever-growing chance what you get from that student will have been composed by an AI. Ask a student instead to imitate an AI in the process of malfunctioning after being asked to write that same paper, and he or she is very likely to realize that there’s just no way any system but a conscious human one can produce the expected work.
Smith-Ruiu himself has been experimenting with creative writing, producing stories and pieces that blend fictional content with non-fictional presentation, to my mind evoking the ambiguous literary forms of W.G. Sebald, but with Smith-Ruiu’s own bizarre and humorous sensibility, and on subject matter that ranges from subtly to explicitly philosophical. (He’ll be teaching a workshop at The American Library in Paris on “Experimental Fiction as Philosophical Experiment” in February.)
It seems to me that there are more reasons to be open to more creativity in philosophy besides “it will be what saves philosophy from being overtaken or obliterated by AI” (see some of the posts listed at the end of this one), which is good, because I’m not as confident as Smith-Ruiu that AI will be incapable of reliably producing good “creative” work. (I use scare quotes there to table debate over whether it’s really creative.) See this piece by Sam Leith at UnHerd, in which he basically says, “I, for one, welcome our new AI author overlords.”
- The Various Literary Forms of Philosophy
- The Creativity of Philosophy
- Creativity, Hierarchy, and Authenticity in Professional Philosophy
- Creativity and Pluralism in Philosophy
- Creativity and Criticism