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Human & Machine Creativity - PHI00079M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Fiora Salis
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Can there be genuinely creative machines, or is creativity a uniquely human quality? Literature, music and even philosophy are within the sights of machine creativity–or are they? We discuss the nature of creativity and look to philosophy and computational science to answer these questions.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To identify and critique accounts of creativity, and of the creative faculties of autonomous systems.

  • To develop philosophically sensitive arguments about the possibility of creative machines which target existing cases.

  • To develop skills of independent reading, independent research, and collaborative learning.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  1. Contrast several philosophical accounts of creativity, and evaluate their implications for genuine creativity in autonomous systems.
  2. Formulate clear and balanced responses to contemporary research in machine creativity through independent reading and collaborative seminar discussion.

  3. Employ the skills above in order to identify cases of machine creativity (or the illusion of machine creativity, as the case may be) in non-academic contexts.

  4. Write an extended essay on a chosen topic which is informed by self-directed research, and which is guided by formative feedback from both the module leader and peers.

Module content

This module explores philosophical notions of creativity, breaking the faculty of creativity into its various kinds: psychological vs historical creativity, and Margaret Boden’s influential taxonomy of combinatorial, exploratory and transformational creativity. We look to the philosophy of mind to determine for ourselves whether some features of creativity are unique to humans, and to work in computer sciences and the philosophy of AI to see why autonomous machines might still be genuinely creative.

We take these lessons and apply them to three case studies: literature and its accompanying questions of authorship; music and the topic of authenticity; and philosophy, where heuristics offer surprising opportunities for machines to put us all out of business.

The reading list for this module draws heavily on recent work (post-2018, with at least one paper from 2021), and on the work of women philosophers (with a particular focus on Margaret Boden and Caterina Moruzzi).


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The formative essay plan is due in Week 8 of the Autumn Term.

The Presentation will take place in Week 10 of the Autumn Term.

The summative essay will be submitted on Monday, Week 2 of the Spring Term.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive feedback on formative work before the end of term.

Students will receive feedback on summative work 4 weeks after submission.

Indicative reading

Paul, E.S. & Kaufman, S.B. (2014). The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays. Oxford: OUP.

  • particularly Boden, M. ‘Creativity and Artificial Intelligence’, and Hájek, A. ‘Philosophical Heuristics and Philosophical Creativity’ in this volume.

Moruzzi, C. (2021) ‘Measuring Creativity: an account of natural and artificial creativity’. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11(1). 1-20.

Bringsfjord, S. et al (2001) ‘Creativity, the Turing Test, and the (Better) Lovelace Test’. Minds and Machines 11(1). 3-27.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.