The Continuous Nature of Moral Creativity

  • Mark A. Runco


Moral creativity is increasingly important in today's complex world because rapid technological advances with unpredictable consequences are magnifying the effects of creative thought and action as well as the importance of ethical guidance for what we do. This chapter explores the relationships between giftedness, creativity, and morality. It also outlines some empirical evidence for these interconnections. Continua are employed to illustrate how individuals can move toward higher levels of creativity and moral action. Creativity can lead toward both negative and positive directions on the moral continuum. Bright people can be creatively benevolent or creatively malevolent and the moral nature of their creations depends on the intertwining of their actions and values. There are some reasons for optimism that people can achieve positive moral development through creativity.

This chapter focuses on creativity in the moral domain. It explores relationships that exist between creativity (the focus of this chapter) and “ethical gifted minds” (the focus of the book) and outlines a number of practical implications for encouraging both morality and creativity. The starting point is a thought experiment:

Think for a moment about your students and/or your children (if any) and what ideals you have for their growth and development. Who do you want them to become? What characteristics are most important for them to develop and express? If you could somehow select or even guarantee specific characteristics for your students and children, what would they be?

Very likely you would like your students and children (real or hypothetical) to be happy and healthy. Suppose you are lucky enough to have happy and healthy children – what would be next? In all probability you would like them to be good people. You might operationalize this in terms of honesty, integrity, or honor, each of which can be subsumed under the umbrella of ethics and morality.

The idea that health and happiness are somehow primary and morality and ethics are just below implies a hierarchy, not unlike Maslow's (1970) hierarchy of needs. Significantly, the peak of that hierarchy (self-actualization) includes creative potential, which is the focus of this chapter.

The point of this simple thought experiment is merely that morality and ethics are of enormous and universal importance. And if creative talents are by chance inextricable from morals and ethics, they too are of the same importance. Indeed, even if extricable, creative talents might facilitate or support morality, in which case they are nearly as important. Admittedly creative talents are probably on most lists of ideals for students and children, especially because they are related directly to psychological and physical health (Richards and Runco 1998) and to adaptability and coping (Flach 1990; Runco 1994).


Moral Reasoning Creative Thinking Moral Action Divergent Thinking Creative Idea 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

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  • Mark A. Runco

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