What does rigor have to do with creativity?

An older piece, but a good meditation (in the vein of sociology of philosophy) on the relationship between disciplinary standards of rigor and knowledge production outcomes. It may be that transformative thinking can be taught. But we wouldn’t know it the way philosophy typically is taught and practiced. Students learn rigorous argumentation, exquisite attention to detail, and how to innovate within extant conversations in the literature. To what degree are these things characteristic of great thinking – thinking that leaps from mountaintop to mountaintop, in Nietzsche’s parlance? What is the relationship between rigor and quality? Is excellent philosophy necessarily rigorous?

I’m reminded here of a point from the sociology of science: Robert Merton’s ethos of the scientific community became elevated to the level of a justification for the nobility and trustworthiness of scientific practice. But the norms he articulated were never more than ideal mechanisms of self-governance. Actual scientific practices hardly ever measured up. And increasing recognition of this – from repeated public exposures of scientific fraud and misconduct to the phenomenon of cherry-picked experts – has prompted some (much needed?) soul searching among practitioners of science. One way to put the point of this site is, we are doing precisely this for philosophy.

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