Ideas are what we think with. Ideas are how we imagine possibilities. Ideas are how we explore what we can do to create the possibilities we imagine. Ideas are our language. Ideas create our culture. Ideas we have in common create community. I registered Writers and Ideas in October 2009 inspired by Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Think about the Great Ideas
It cannot be too often repeated that philosophy is everybody’s business. To be a human being is to be endowed with the proclivity to philosophize. To some degree we all engage in philosophical thought in the course of our daily lives.
How to Think about the Great Ideas contained edited transcripts from a 1953 – 1954 television series by Mortimer Adler with his sidekick, Lloyd Luckman, fielding questions each week from viewers about the Great Ideas. The idea Mortimer Adler didn’t discuss was how to think about the idea of enterprise, – personal enterprise and community enterprise.
Ideas excite enterprise. Writers and Ideas is a creative community resource, – an idea and an enterprise to connect writers with ideas to our creative interests, to create connections for our creative enterprise, to increase the contribution of writers with ideas to our knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the world, and to excite exploration for creative connections. The following are some ideas from writers that contribute to my point of view and to what I think could improve our ability to explore what we can do to create a better future for our world as a community.
In 1990, the economist Paul Romer invented a new theory of economic growth. Although his theory depends on a long list of abstruse equations, its basic premise is incredibly simple: ideas are an inexhaustible resource. While economics has always been rooted in the scarcity of the material world, Romer pointed out that ideas are a nonrival good. When knowledge spreads from person to person, that knowledge isn’t diminished or worn out. Instead ideas tend to become more useful when they become more popular, – their consumption leads to increasing returns and new innovations.
Human beings are able to communicate their thoughts and their feelings in many different ways. If I have the ability I can paint them, draw them, sculpt them, dance them, compose them into a symphony or a ballet or a piece of jazz, and express myself in all the ways that are called ‘arts and crafts’. Each does something none of the others do. But if we want to describe what it is that we’ve seen and heard, or give it a name, or discuss it with others, then we do need language. Language allows us to talk about our experience of the world in a way that no other means of communication can.
Humans everywhere have the capacity to form images, symbols, and concepts, and although the contents of these concepts often vary, the capacity is universal. These universal and cross-cultural patterns tell us some very important things about the human condition, because if you have found something shared by most or even all humans, you have probably found something of profound significance.
Creativity is related to culture. Cultural conditions can kindle or kill creativity. We do not have creative ideas in a vacuum. Individual creativity is stimulated by the work, ideas, and achievements of other people. We stand on the shoulders of others to see further. This is true in all fields, in business, science, sport, music, design, fashion, whatever. Human intelligence is creative in a profound sense. Thinking and feeling are not simply about seeing the world as it is, but of having ideas about it, of interpreting experience to give it meaning. Different communities live differently according to the ideas they have and the meanings they see.