Modernity, Creativity and Innovation


  • Prof Mike Beaney (Department of Philosophy)



The nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed unprecedented intellectual and technological development.

In the nineteenth century, for example, Darwinian evolutionary theory changed our view of the place of human beings in the natural world, while the industrial revolution led to economic and social upheaval that began in Britain and spread across the world.

In the twentieth century, relativity theory and quantum physics transformed our understanding of the universe, paving the way for both the atomic bomb and the computer age. In the arts, various forms of modernism developed around the turn of the twentieth century, and new beginnings were announced in art, literature, music, philosophy, and elsewhere.

In this project we will be exploring the new forms of creativity and innovation that emerged in this period, and asking questions about the nature of modernity, creativity and innovation. 

  • Discourse of the new, with its talk of ‘modern’, ‘revolutions’, ‘turns’ and the like, is a characteristic feature of modernity, yet how were such terms understood and invoked?
  • What impact did particular innovations have?
  • How have conceptions of creativity developed in this period, and what philosophical assumptions and social implications did they have?
  • How have the transformations of our conceptual schemes, both gradual and revolutionary, brought about by scientific developments penetrated both everyday discourse and the realm of the arts?

Workshops, seminars and conferences

The project opened with a conference on The turn to language in the twentieth century, focusing on two different conceptions of a ‘linguistic turn’. The linguist Andrew Linn talked about the development of phonetics as an autonomous subject at the end of the nineteenth century which led to the emergence of applied linguistics, and the philosopher Peter Hacker spoke on the linguistic turn in analytic philosophy as it developed in the twentieth century.

Further workshops and conferences, in association with CRICK (the Centre for Research into Imagination, Creativity and Knowledge, recently founded by the Department of Philosophy) are being planned over the next two years.

Seminar series on Creativity

In 2010-11, supported by a grant from CETLE, and in association with both CRICK and Centre for the History of Philosophy (CHiPhi), we are running two series of seminars on creativity, one on creativity in the history of philosophy, involving evening talks by academic staff in the Department of Philosophy, and one on creativity across the disciplines, involving lunchtime talks by academic staff from a number of different departments in the University. All talks are open to anyone who is interested.   

Further information about the seminar series