Is There an Ethics of Creativity?

Chromatikon 2:161-173 (2006)
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Is there an ethics of creativity? Though this question appears innocent enough, it proves surprisingly difficult to answer. A survey of the literature on the topic reveals that process ethics has variously been categorized as or seen as compatible with: moral interest theory, ecological virtue ethics, utilitarianism, Confucian virtue ethics, and even deontology. What can account for such divergent and even contradictory conclusions? On one level we might blame Whitehead, whose sporadic comments on morality may appear to be more suggestive than systematic. While, as I argue elsewhere,3 there is a greater coherence to Whitehead’s statements about morality than is initially apparent, it is undeniable that he never attempted to develop a theory of morality. Yet it is unlikely that the state of the texts should shoulder all of the blame for the lack of consensus on the basic nature of process ethics. It would seem that there is a more fundamental problem lurking beneath the surface. Indeed, I suggest that there are at least five basic confusions — four substantive and one methodological — that have vitiated attempts to understand and develop a process approach to morality. Until these confusions are recognized and resolved, we will have no hope of understanding the promise or realizing the potential of the ethics of creativity.

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Brian G. Henning
Gonzaga University

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