Creative Combinatorics in Ostwald’s philosophy

Already in 1910 Ostwald mentioned in his philosophy of nature (“Natural Philosophy”, 1910) the importance of combinatorics for his philosophy and for creativity:

There is a science, the Theory of Combinations, which gives the rules by which, in given elements or characteristics, the kind and number of the possible groups can be found. The theory of combinations enables us to obtain a complete table and survey of all possible complex conceptswhich can be formed from given simple ones (whether they be really elementary concepts, or only relatively so) . When in any field of science the fundamental concepts have been combined in this manner, a complete survey can be had of all the possible parts of this science by means of the theory of combinations (p.71).

View in Ostwald’s House in Grossbothen

Thus combinatory schematization serves not only to bring the existing content of science into such order that each single thing has its assigned place, but the groups which have thereby been found to be vacant, to which as yet nothing of experience corresponds, also point to the places in which science can be completed by new discoveries (p.73).