Creative tale of deductive thought

Regarding the Jan. 30 article by Mark Gottlieb, “The confounding case of Japan’s creativity crisis“: While the premise that describes “creativity” appears generally sound, Gottlieb’s assertion that “At its heart, creativity is really nothing more than deductive reasoning” doesn’t seem to hold up.

It is understood that creativity is the exercising of the imagination to make something original. This has been conflated with “deductive reasoning,” which deals with perceived facts. Creativity may be something innate, like language ability, whereas deductive reasoning is a skill that is learned.

Apart from this skill is another, medieval semiotics — signs and how meaning is ascribed to those signs. These are not products of the imagination, but indications of things or events that exist(ed). The difficulty is in deciding which signs are important, and how we place meaning to those signs.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is acutely perceptive in terms of semiotics, but this is from training, and then he uses these facts and methods of inference to reach his clever deductions so that he can utter, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson!”

So, it is Conan Doyle’s writing of Holmes stories that is creative.

Similarly another work that is something of a companion to Holmes is Umberto Eco’s 1983 novel “The Name of the Rose.” Here the narrator Adso plays Dr. Watson to Brother William’s Holmes.

And, yes, they seek to solve a series of mysterious murders at an abbey. However, Eco, a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, also offers a textbook of classical and medieval methods of inference. The novel is also a masterpiece of inventiveness, so all prospective Holmeses would do well to study this, too.

geoffry d. hinton
shizuoka

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.