“Novelty” and “originality”

The words “novelty” and “originality” are often used interchangeably. They are different, however.

Novelty means a newness, in an objective sense. An unprecedented concept has been conceived (or unprecedented artifact has been produced).

Originality means an “originator” has synthesized a concept (or produced an artifact) by his own effort, as opposed to having consciously learned it elsewhere. This does not mean the concept/artifact is unprecedented in the world, only that it is unprecedented in the experience of the conceiver. An original idea will appear as novel to the originator.

This is where the exaltation of originality is dangerous. A thinker, having unconsciously absorbed [extremely un-novel and un-original] cultural values will prefer to believe his ideas are novel and neglect the harder task of finding others who are thinking along the same lines. Such thinkers self-divide into semi-private languages and deny themselves all political force, which does not come from having truth on one’s side, but allies.


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