The Nature of Creativity: A Synthesis from Peirce, Deleuze, Bohm and Alexander

Carlos E. Perez
Intuition Machine
Published in
10 min readJul 16, 2023


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The exploration of creativity has intrigued thinkers across different fields for centuries, resulting in rich and diverse perspectives. Some of the most influential views come from the philosophical underpinnings of Charles Sanders Peirce, Gilles Deleuze, Christopher Alexander, and David Bohm. Despite the varying contexts of their work, a careful examination reveals a compelling synthesis, illuminating creativity as a dynamic, transformative, and inherently interconnected phenomenon that transcends habitual thinking.

Peirce’s Pragmatism and Creativity

Charles Sanders Peirce, a pragmatic philosopher, positioned creativity as an interpretive process anchored in semiotics. For Peirce, symbols represent ideas and contribute to the creation of new thoughts, creating an “interpretant” that connects the symbol and the thought. This process, according to Peirce, is dynamic and continuous, setting it apart from habitual thinking, which is characteristically static and repetitive.

Deleuze’s Rhizomatic Creativity

Gilles Deleuze, a post-structuralist philosopher, provided a unique perspective on creativity through his conception of the “rhizome”. Rhizomatic thinking, unlike linear, hierarchical thought (habitual thinking), is non-linear and allows for multiple entry and exit points. Creativity is thus viewed as a process that is decentralized and perpetually open to change and connections. It is spontaneous, and can, in a sense, ‘deterritorialize’ itself from fixed pathways and structures, encouraging a novel and fertile ground for creative thought.

Alexander’s Pattern Language and Creativity

Architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander emphasized the importance of “patterns” and “pattern language” in creative thinking. Patterns, according to Alexander, are solutions to problems that recur in different contexts. In habitual thinking, we tend to repeat patterns without alteration, but in creativity, we modify and arrange these patterns uniquely, establishing a “pattern language” that can be surprisingly novel. Creativity, for Alexander, is the active engagement in discovering and synthesizing new pattern languages.

Bohm’s Holistic Creativity

David Bohm, a theoretical physicist, suggested that creativity is an unbroken, holistic process of unfolding meaning. This view of creativity transcends habitual thinking by eschewing reductionism. Bohm proposed the notion of “implicate” and “explicate” orders, where creativity can be seen as a constant enfoldment and unfoldment from the implicate (totality) to the explicate (individual parts) and vice versa. This undivided flow permits the emergence of novel insights and perspectives.

Examining the ideas of Peirce, Deleuze, Alexander, and Bohm in juxtaposition allows for the formation of an enriched, cohesive view of creativity. This synthesis sheds light on the multifaceted nature of creativity, underscoring it as a process that is not only dynamic and transformative but also deeply interconnected.

The dynamism in creativity is strongly highlighted through the interpretive semiotic process posited by Peirce. His conception of the interpretant, a dynamic product of interpretation formed in the process of semiosis, illustrates how creativity goes beyond the static nature of habitual thought. Creativity, in this context, becomes a ceaseless interaction between symbols and meanings. The interpretant continuously evolves with every new interpretation, emphasizing the fluid, ever-changing nature of creativity.

Complementing this dynamism is the transformative element, most prominently depicted in Deleuze’s rhizomatic thinking. The rhizome, being an acentric, non-hierarchical, and non-signifying system, fosters creativity by allowing for uncharted transformations. The continuous ‘deterritorialization’ and ‘reterritorialization’ within the rhizome mirror the transformative aspect of creativity, wherein new ideas grow and branch out from established ones, creating a spontaneous and constantly changing network. This is a stark contrast to habitual thinking, which is bound by pre-established structures and routines.

Adding a layer of depth to this synthesized view, Christopher Alexander’s pattern language theory illuminates the interconnected nature of creativity. By drawing connections between recurring problems and solutions across different contexts, creativity emerges as a web of interwoven patterns. Each pattern does not exist in isolation but is intrinsically linked with others, forming a unique language that transcends routine thought patterns. The interconnectedness here serves as a catalyst for creativity, facilitating the synthesis of new ideas from existing patterns.

Lastly, Bohm’s holistic creativity underlines the inseparable relationship between the parts and the whole, extending the interconnectedness to a more profound level. His implicate and explicate orders depict creativity as a constantly unfolding and enfolding process, signifying an uninterrupted dialogue between the whole and the individual parts. This perspective disrupts the fragmented view of creativity often associated with habitual thinking and offers a holistic lens that recognizes and appreciates the unity in diversity.

This synthesis, therefore, accentuates creativity as a dynamic, transformative, and interconnected process. It extends beyond the creation of novel ideas, to include the continual evolution of meanings (Peirce), the allowance for unanticipated transformations (Deleuze), the formation of novel patterns through interconnections (Alexander), and the appreciation of the holistic nature of the universe (Bohm). Each perspective reinforces the others, creating a synergy that illuminates the rich complexity of creativity and further distinguishes it from habitual thinking.

Peirce’s interpretative process finds its extension in Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome. While Peirce establishes the continuous evolution of meanings through symbols, Deleuze provides the structural blueprint, the rhizome, through which these connections and transformations can occur freely and spontaneously. The semiotic process of creation, thus, thrives in the rhizomatic framework, allowing ideas to grow, interconnect, and transform organically.

Similarly, Deleuze’s rhizomatic creativity resonates with Alexander’s pattern language. Just as rhizomatic thinking champions decentralization and multiplicity, Alexander’s theory underscores the importance of recognizing recurring patterns in diverse contexts and linking them creatively. Both views highlight the inherent connectivity in creative processes, emphasizing that creativity is not a solitary endeavor but a networked, relational one. This synergistic understanding promotes a more flexible, inclusive approach to creativity, challenging the rigidity of habitual thinking.

The theme of interconnectedness is further amplified in Bohm’s concept of implicate and explicate orders. Bohm’s view harmonizes with Alexander’s emphasis on the interconnectedness of patterns. While Alexander’s patterns depict micro-level connections, Bohm’s orders suggest a macro-level interconnectivity, presenting the universe as a coherent whole. This synergy offers a comprehensive view of creativity that appreciates both the micro and macro interconnections, reinforcing the intricate tapestry that creativity weaves.

Peirce’s interpretative process finds further synergy in Bohm’s concept. As Peirce suggests the ongoing evolution of meanings, Bohm offers a holistic perspective that such evolution is part of a larger, unbroken unfolding and enfolding process within the universe. The dynamism of the interpretant in Peirce’s semiotics mirrors the dynamic unfolding and enfolding in Bohm’s orders, enriching the understanding of creativity as a ceaseless, interpretative dialogue between the part (the symbol or the idea) and the whole (the universe).

In this convergence, we witness a unique synergy — the pragmatism of Peirce, the post-structuralism of Deleuze, the design theory of Alexander, and the theoretical physics of Bohm, come together to provide a well-rounded, in-depth, and dynamic understanding of creativity. Each theory reinforces and complements the others, emphasizing that creativity is a process that is ever-evolving, deeply interconnected, and holistic. This synergy, thus, does more than just distinguish creativity from habitual thinking; it celebrates creativity as an intrinsic part of the living, evolving universe.

This synthesis not only builds a robust theoretical understanding of creativity but also sets a promising pathway for future explorations. The emergent synergies unravel the multidimensional aspects of creativity and open the gates for novel research directions. By anchoring future research in this enriched understanding, we can further delve into the mechanisms through which these dimensions interact and influence creative output.

For instance, we can investigate how the continuous semiotic interpretation, as proposed by Peirce, operates within the framework of Deleuze’s rhizome, giving rise to unanticipated transformations. We could examine how this rhizomatic interplay of signs and symbols influences Alexander’s pattern language, promoting the emergence of unique solutions to recurring problems.

Moreover, we could explore how Bohm’s implicate and explicate orders influence this dynamic. Is the constant unfolding and enfolding process a driving force behind the dynamic nature of the interpretant and the transformative capacity of the rhizome? Does it also govern the synthesis of new patterns in Alexander’s theory?

These explorations could further unravel the richness of the creative process, offering a deeper understanding of its mechanics. They could also inform practical applications in diverse fields, from education and arts to business and technology, by guiding innovative strategies and fostering a culture that embraces and nurtures creativity.

As we venture forward, let this new synthesis serve as a reminder that creativity is not a mere deviation from the habitual. It is a living, evolving dialogue with the world — a dance of symbols, transformations, patterns, and holistic interconnectedness. By embracing this view, we can start to perceive creativity not as an elusive trait but as an inherent part of our relation to, and interaction with, the universe. The way forward, thus, lies not only in understanding creativity but in embodying it as an integral aspect of our existence.

As we reflect on this synthesized perspective, let us appreciate that inherent in its multiplicity is both a revelation and a call to action. The revelation is that creativity transcends habitual thoughts and individual domains. It is a cosmic dance — one that we all partake in, whether consciously or not.

The call is for us to embrace this dance with awareness, empathy, and courage. For peaking beyond silos, daring to interconnect diverse patterns, and dialoguing with the holistic implicate order is risky and disruptive. It entails venturing from our familiar territories into the uncharted. But as Teresa of Avila noted, “To reach something good, it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.”

So may we respond to the call and walk the creative path. Let us cross boundaries, transform perspectives, and uncover hidden connections. And when we falter or lose hope, may we find resilience in the knowledge that the creative process is larger than us. Our tiny acts have unseen ripples, for in the wise words of the writer Clarissa Pinkola Estés, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

This capacity for small yet mighty change exists within all of us. For creativity is not a mythic power reserved for geniuses. It is an innate human birthright — a way of engaging with life’s endless mysteries. We need only set the intention, take a step, and let the dance unfold. Though the journey be challenging, it promises joy. For as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke assures us, “If we are directed outward, we will see the scaffolding — the scaffolding toward which all human kind presses. And we may rejoice.”

May the ideas synthesized here point us gently in that outward direction. Let them help illuminate our shared path ahead, guiding us toward a future brimming with possibility.

Reverse Engineered Structure of this text:

Based on my analysis, the original text appears to follow this general structure and intention:

- Synthesize different philosophical perspectives on creativity into a unified, multidimensional understanding.


- Framing of the exploration of creativity as an intriguing phenomenon that has resulted in diverse perspectives across different fields.

- Summary of key ideas on creativity from 4 philosophers/thinkers:
— Peirce — Creativity as a continuous, evolving interpretive process grounded in semiotics
— Deleuze — Creativity as rhizomatic thinking allowing decentralized transformations
— Alexander — Creativity as connecting patterns across contexts into a pattern language
— Bohm — Creativity as an enfolding and unfolding holistic process

- Explanation of how each perspective provides a distinct dimension to creativity: dynamism, transformation, interconnectedness, wholeness.

- Discussion of how the 4 perspectives converge into a rich, multifaceted understanding of creativity that transcends habitual thinking.

- Highlighting of synergies between the key ideas that reinforce each other.

- Reflection on how the synthesis provides a foundation for future research directions and applications for creativity across fields.

- Summation that this multidimensional view illuminates creativity as an embodied aspect of human existence rather than just a deviation from habitual thought.

The style of presentation appears to be an academic philosophical analysis, with a logical buildup of different perspectives, exploration of relationships between their core concepts, and a synthesizing conclusion. The arguments flow in an organized, coherent manner using precise and formal language suitable for scholarly discourse.

New generation from the reverse engineered structure:


Creativity has captivated thinkers across diverse fields, yielding a rich tapestry of perspectives that illuminate different facets of this intriguing phenomenon. By bringing together key ideas from seminal philosophers, we can move towards a unified, multidimensional understanding of creativity that transcends habitual thinking. This exploration focuses on four philosophers whose work provides distinct yet interconnected dimensions to creativity.


Charles Sanders Peirce conceived of creativity as a continuous process of evolving interpretations grounded in semiotics. For Peirce, new insights emerge through abductive logic that mediates between deductive and inductive reasoning. This inferential process dynamically regenerates meanings, rather than reaching a final conclusion. Creativity is thus an ongoing act of making new semiotic connections that reframe understanding.

Gilles Deleuze developed a “rhizomatic” view of creativity, drawing on the decentralized, transformative growth patterns of plant rhizomes. Deleuzian creativity entails nomadic thought that eschews rigid, hierarchical structures. It enables decentralized connections and unexpected assemblages that transform perspectives. Creativity is seen as a generative force of difference, enacting limitless possibilities.

Christopher Alexander proposed that creativity manifests through identifying coherent patterns and connecting these patterns across contexts into a growing pattern language. Creativity weaves together patterns from different domains to generate novel configurations. For Alexander, creative synthesis involves discerning latent patterns then relating these patterns into holistic systems of meaning.

David Bohm conceived of creativity in terms of an enfolding and unfolding relationship between the implicate and explicate orders. Creativity arises from active participation in the holomovement of reality through insight into undivided wholeness. This unfolding enfoldment enables novel forms to emerge creatively from the implicate order into manifest actuality.


Each perspective highlights different vital dimensions of creativity. Peirce illuminates the dynamism inherent in creative semiosis. Deleuze reveals creativity’s transformative power. Alexander focuses on interrelating contexts through pattern recognition. Bohm emphasizes participatory unfoldment of undivided wholeness. While distinct, these dimensions also reinforce each other. Dynamism enables transformation, which emerges through weaving connections between patterns, which in turn unfold from holistic orders. The interplay between these synergistic facets can advance our understanding of creativity.


Synthesizing major philosophical perspectives on creativity provides a multidimensional foundation for future research and applications. This view reveals creativity as an embodied aspect of existence rather than just deviation from habit. It underscores creativity’s vital role in renewing meanings through ongoing contextual interpretation, enabling decentralized growth through rhizomatic knowledge, discerning and relating coherent patterns across contexts, and participatively unfolding the generative orders of reality. When integrated, these dimensions illuminate creativity as a complex continuum, rather than a series of discrete novel acts. This framework can orient creative exploration across diverse fields.

Disclaimer: All text generated in this blog is from GPT4 and Claude 2.

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