Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Isabella’s Not So Original Thoughts on Originality

What makes an idea original?

  1. If Descartes theory of “I am a thing that thinks” is seen as true, then wouldn’t all ideas be seen as original to every individual that thinks?
  2. Are there original ideas?
  3. What does it mean if no ideas are original?


The reading I chose was a book published by various philosophers, sharing their views and opinions on creativity and originality whilst including the thoughts of many psychologists and scientists. It sternly expressed how originality and creativity is a topic of high interest in both the scientific and philosophical disciplines.

This interdisciplinary approach is embraced by a new school of creativity researchers who are part of much broader trend toward dialogue and collaboration between scientifically-minded philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists.”(pg.6)

This article also discusses the general consensus that defines something as creative when it is something new and it holds some sort of value or use. This gives some insight on my first sub-question: every thought sought technically be new to each thinking individual, however, it would be impossible to tell if said thoughts/ideas hold any value or are useful in any way. This then also takes a stab at the overlaying question: What makes an idea original? According to one section of the reading a creative idea is a new one, and has value or use. Creativity however isn’t quite a synonym for originality. Though creativity and originality are closely linked in the eyes of many meaning the an original idea could have the same criteria, however it is not explicitly clear in the reading.

“Being original is usually contrasted with being derivative. An idea, for example, is original if it is not derived from someone else’s idea.”(pg.19)

So if we look at my first sub-question again, Descartes theory only describes the existence of himself, meaning anyone who is a thing that thinks cannot prove the existence of anyone-anything else. This potentially means that if no one else’s existence can be proven, there is no way to derive any idea from someone else’s. This points to the conclusion that if Descartes theory of “I am a thing that thinks” is seen as true, any and all ideas would be original to each individual “thing that thinks”. This quote also gives a possible answer to my main question of what makes an idea original? According to the quote, an idea is original if it is not derived from someone else’s idea(s) or any other pre-existing ideas. Altogether, an idea is original when it has not been derived from another’s idea and therefore is seen as “new”. However, there is nothing in the reading that goes in depth about what the possibilities of no original ideas. This does flaw my logic behind all of my previously answered questions because it does’t account for all possibilities. Therefore this reading also does;t answer my last sub-question: What does it mean if no ideas are original.

Why this topic?

I find the whole concept of originality intriguing because it is relatively unknown. Especially in the 21st century, I wonder how many ideas are actually original, if any at all. We may see things as very original ideas now because we have advanced technology and other aspects of modern day life, but is unknown if one of our predecessors had thought of the idea before hand and did not have the required skills and/or materials to portray it. Because there is so many unknown factors when answering these questions, metaphysics is what I believe to be a solid platform to discuss these questions due to the varying perspectives you can get to gravitate to your own opinion.

Where to next?

After some extensive reading on the definitions of originality, I am still very curious to look at the alternative side of whether or not originality exists and what it would mean if it doesn’t? The opposing view to what I have read basically. I plan on deconstructing my views on originality and also discuss with various others to try and grasp what originality is and it’s proof of existence.






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