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Book: On Creativity

On Creativity by David Bohm 

A former student, now an adult, stopped by and gave me a copy of of On Creativity by the late and controversial quantum physicist David Bohm. Thumbing through quickly, On Creativity had an air of consilience to it that I think I will find enjoyable, though I am not sure I will agree with Bohm’s conceptions of thought and mind. At least, the book should challenge some of my preconceived opinions.

Thus, making it useful.


11 Responses to “Book: On Creativity”

  1. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    This looks interesting; thanks for sharing!

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    I met Saral Bohm, David‘s wife, a few years after he died, and she inscribed a copy of his book Causality and Chance in Modern Physics for me with his last words.  Unfortunately, the book got seriously mildewed and I had to destroy it, but I was able to find the last words themselves in Infinite Potential by David Peat, his sometime co-writer and biographer:

    On the afternoon of October 27, 1992, David Bohm was at Birkbeck College, the University of London, putting the finishing touches on a book that would sum up his lifelong struggle to create an alternative quantum theory. At six-fifteen he telephoned his wife, Saral, to let her know he was about to leave. “You know, it’s tantalizing,” he said. “I feel I’m on the edge of something.”‘ An hour later, just as his taxi pulled up outside his home, Bohm suffered a massive heart attack and died.

    That’s quite a way to go…

  3. zen Says:

    Hi Charles,
    the tie-ins on this blog are amazing sometimes.
    I have not read the book yet – going to do so next week – but flipping through, I sense some echoes of determinism. Is that your take on Bohm’s conceptions or am I misreading from a casual glance?
    Hey Scott – you are welcome! 

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Zen:


    To the extent that I know Bohm, I know Bohm the proponent of a form of dialogue in which one attempts not to propound one’s existing store of thoughts but to present that arising thought which best addresses the emergent group understanding – I hope that doesn’t sound too pompous, I am trying to be accurate to some subtle thinking on Bohm’s part, and probably not succeeding — and this is also the Bohm that held dialogues with Krishnamurti, the guru who famously suggested we shouldn’t trust gurus. 


    I don’t pretend to be able to follow discussions on QM, so I won’t go there, except to quote this from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    In 1952 David Bohm created an alternative interpretation of QM — perhaps better thought of as an alternative theory — that realizes Einstein’s dream of a hidden variable theory, restoring determinism and definiteness to micro-reality. In Bohmian quantum mechanics, unlike other interpretations, it is postulated that all particles have, at all times, a definite position and velocity. In addition to the Schrödinger equation, Bohm posited a guidance equation that determines, on the basis of the system’s wavefunction and particles’ initial positions and velocities, what their future positions and velocities should be. As much as any classical theory of point particles moving under force fields, then, Bohm’s theory is deterministic. Amazingly, he was also able to show that, as long as the statistical distribution of initial positions and velocities of particles are chosen so as to meet a “quantum equilibrium” condition, his theory is empirically equivalent to standard Copenhagen QM. In one sense this is a philosopher’s nightmare: with genuine empirical equivalence as strong as Bohm obtained, it seems experimental evidence can never tell us which description of reality is correct.

    — and to comment that it is my understanding that Bohm did not propose his interpretation of QM as the “right” one but as one that showed the open nature of the question of QM’s philosophical underpinnings.  But I could of course be wrong about that, too… 


    I’m really not qualified to speak to these things.  I’m certainly very curious to glean what I can, though…

  5. Madhu Says:

    Wow. Interesting post and subsequent comments.
    I once joked on Pundita’s blog that she and other bloggers I read (like, er, you all including zen, Charles, and J. Scott) serve as gurus or teachers for me. Lex, too, because he’s read everything. Oddly enough, I hated small groups in college and medical school and preferred large lecture classes where I could sit in the back and “do my own thing,” intellectually. Teacher could talk, I could listen or not listen. In a small group, you tend to “peacock” for the others. Medical students are such kiss-a$$es sometimes.
    On Creativity: can someone explain why when I read novels in my free time and blogged art and books and paintings, I was able to write up a short story in a day or so, and now that my non-work reading is non-fiction, I feel creatively “blocked”? A source of frustration….
    – Madhu

  6. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi Madhu,
    Perhaps the limiting factor is a lack of variety in the non-fiction? For me, when I get caught in a rut, my creativity suffers. I try (and don’t always succeed) to have several different types of book in progress simultaneously. And, more often than not, these books land in my pile from unlikely/unplanned sources. For instance, I just finished a whimsical work of fiction on the Hindenburg disaster—the author was a guest in our home last weekend for something completely unrelated. I gave him a copy of Coram’s BOYD, he sent me a copy of his book—-and of course, I had to read it, and glad I did.
    There’s a really off-beat book by a guy named Roger Van Och called A Kick in the Seat of the Pants that I’ve come to rely on in times when I feel stuck—sometimes it works, sometimes not…Good poetry (more often than not for me, Robert Frost or Edna Millay) sometimes shakes things loose, too… 

  7. zen Says:

    Thanks Charles! Maybe I can stir Shane Deichman and/or Dr. Von to comment on Bohm’s ideas from a physicist’s perspective. I can follow QM explanations up to a certain point and then it sort of trails away into non-comprehension. 🙂 
    Hi Doc Madhu,
    My take is that sudden leaps of insight are provoked more by exposure to other domains (horizontal movement) than by diving deeper (vertical) to greater levels of expertise – I think the latter is good for the “tweaking” refining kind of creativity that polishes or distills or reifies. Plus, with the familiar, our brain tends to shut down, grow bored.

  8. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Bohm’s book arrived today. Thank goodness for abe.com! My used paperback is in good shape, no marks and cost less than $10…now, I’ll read it when time permits. Thanks again for sharing!

  9. zen Says:

    Very cool. Read the intro/foreword and start of Ch. 1 at lunch today.

  10. Alena Johns Says:


    I am trying to trace the estate of David Bohm as ALCS are holding secondary royalties that have been left unclaimed.

    I Wonder if anybody had any information on Saral Bohm.

    Any help would be much appreciated.


    Alena Johns ALCS


  11. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Alena:
    I have passed your message along.

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