Re: Pasteur, Chance and the Prepared Mind

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Tue Jun 04 1996 - 21:42:59 BST

> Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 15:35:37 GMT
> From: "Ayton, Daniel" <>
> The ideas of creativity have a numbers of forms one of which is that of
> Pasteurs and his theory, Chance favours the prepared mind (Le hasard
> favorse Iesprit prepare) this is a matter of some discussion and one
> which I will consider. Firstly I feel that there is a need to say how
> complex the issue of creativity is and the fact that even the
> definition of creativity is not clean cut.

So far this uses too many words to say too little. Kid-sib would be

> Pastuer looked at the experimental process and said, were the results
> experimental discoveries (serendipitous) or are they really accidents.

Serendiptous already implies chance.

> He saw that there was a element of chance but also a element of
> preparation. The paradox is that the mind would be more creative if it
> was prepared thus had learned what was already known.

Why is this a paradox?

> For example the
> cure for cancer will probably not come from someone who has not done
> his home work, and rather someone that already knows the area. Although
> they may come up with a totally new theory by chance but there is the
> element of preparation.

Pasteur's point is that if the mind has not been prepared with the
necessary pieces, then chance cannot recombine them into the winning

> Intellectual creativity must have a element of
> surprise as well as being new and valuable. There is a conflict with
> Pesteur dictum because preparation can only train our expectations.

Not our expectations; our methods. So old methods are unlikely to give
new results. Nevertheless, we have to master the methods to put
ourselves in a position to improve upon them.

> How
> can it lead to a surprising result. His dictum resolves this problem,
> by saying that preparation does not guarantee creativity. There is also
> the essential element of chance, however there needs to be prepared
> conditions, preparation only maximises the probability.

You MIGHT have the idea, but it certainly does not come out clearly to
kid-sib. Think out your questions more, use words more carefully and
sparingly, and read some more.

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