The value of Ingenuity

  • Christopher Dowling The University of York


Ingenious activity has been taken to be valuable because it constitutes a remarkable frugality or economy of means in arriving at creative solutions to given problems. Taking as a starting point for discussion a recent pamphlet, How to be Ingenious, produced by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA), I engage critically with recent attempts to define ingenuity as asubclass of creativity. By challenging each of three criteria that have been identified as central to its definition I develop an original account of ingenuity and its value. The discussion is divided into three sections. The first briefly outlines the RSA’s approach to and account of ingenuity, suggesting two initial concerns and offering a range of examples to be discussed throughout. Section 2 engages with and develops each of the identified criteria for ingenuity, appealing for clarification to a useful discussion in the philosophy of art. The implications for our understanding of ingenuity, and in particular its value, are set out in section 3, along with an amended definition of this form of creativity.