Genius

Genius

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Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity
Creativity
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

, or originality
Originality
Originality is the aspect of created or invented works by as being new or novel, and thus can be distinguished from reproductions, clones, forgeries, or derivative works....

, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight
Insight
Insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect in a specific context. Insight can be used with several related meanings:*a piece of information...

.

There is no scientifically precise definition of genius, and indeed the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning is a subject of current debate. The term is used in various ways: to refer to a particular aspect of an individual, or the individual in their entirety; to a scholar in many subjects
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 (e.g. Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 or Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

) or a scholar in a single subject (e.g. Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 or Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

). Research into what causes genius and mastery is still in its early stages, but psychology already offers relevant insights.

Origin of the word

Main article: Genius (mythology)
Genius (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, the genius was the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place or thing.-Nature of the genius:...

.

In ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, the genius
Genius (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, the genius was the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place or thing.-Nature of the genius:...

(plural genii) was the guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person
Person
A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

, family (gens
Gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

)
, or place (genius loci
Genius loci
In classical Roman religion a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted in religious iconography as a figure holding a Cornucopia, patera and/or a snake. There are many Roman altars found in Western Europe dedicated in whole or in part to the particular Genius Loci...

)
. The noun is related to the Latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, "to bring into being, create, produce." Because the achievements of exceptional individuals seemed to indicate the presence of a particularly powerful genius, by the time of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 the word began to acquire its secondary meaning of "inspiration, talent."

Galton


The assessing of intelligence was initiated by Francis Galton
Francis Galton
Sir Francis Galton /ˈfrɑːnsɪs ˈgɔːltn̩/ FRS , cousin of Douglas Strutt Galton, half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was an English Victorian polymath: anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician...

 and James McKeen Cattell
James McKeen Cattell
James McKeen Cattell , American psychologist, was the first professor of psychology in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania and long-time editor and publisher of scientific journals and publications, most notably the journal Science...

. They had advocated the analysing of reaction time and sensory acuity as measures of "neurophysiological efficiency" and the analysing of sensory acuity as a measure of intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

.

Galton is regarded as the founder of psychometry
Psychometry
Psychometry , also known as token-object reading, or psychoscopy, is a form of extra-sensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object...

 (among other kinds of assessing, such as fingerprinting). He studied the work of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

. Charles Darwin showed that traits must be inherited before evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 can occur. Reasoning that eminence is caused by genetic traits he did a study of their heritability, publishing it in 1869 as Hereditary Genius. His method was to count and assess the eminent relatives of eminent men. He found that the number of eminent relatives is greater with closer degree of kinship, indicating to him that a genetic trait is present in an eminent line of descent that is not present in other lines. This work is considered the first example of historiometry
Historiometry
Historiometry is the historical study of human progress or individual personal characteristics, using statistics to analyze references to geniuses, their statements, behavior and discoveries in relatively neutral texts...

, an analytical study of historical human progress.
Galton's theories were elaborated from the work of two early 19th-century pioneers in statistics
Statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

: Karl Friedrich Gauss and Adolphe Quetelet
Adolphe Quetelet
Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet was a Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician and sociologist. He founded and directed the Brussels Observatory and was influential in introducing statistical methods to the social sciences...

. Gauss discovered the normal distribution (bell-shaped curve): Given a large number of measurements of the same variable under the same conditions, they vary at random from a most frequent value, the "average," to two least frequent values at maximum differences greater and less than the most frequent value. Quetelet discovered that the bell-shaped curve applied to social statistics gathered by the French government in the course of its normal processes on large numbers of people passing through the courts and the military. His initial work in criminology led him to observe "the greater the number of individuals observed the more do peculiarities become effaced..." This ideal from which the peculiarities were effaced became "the average man."

Himself a child prodigy
Child prodigy
A child prodigy is someone who, at an early age, masters one or more skills far beyond his or her level of maturity. One criterion for classifying prodigies is: a prodigy is a child, typically younger than 18 years old, who is performing at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding...

, Galton was inspired by Quetelet to define the average man as "an entire normal scheme"; that is, if one combines the normal curves of every measurable human characteristic, one will in theory perceive a syndrome
Syndrome
In medicine and psychology, a syndrome is the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs , symptoms , phenomena or characteristics that often occur together, so that the presence of one or more features alerts the physician to the possible presence of the others...

 straddled by "the average man" and flanked by persons that are different. In contrast to Quetelet, Galton's average man was not statistical, but was theoretical only. There was no measure of general averageness, only a large number of very specific averages. Setting out to discover a general measure of the average, Galton looked at educational statistics and found bell-curves in test results of all sorts; initially in mathematics grades for the final honors examination and in entrance examination scores for Sandhurst
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst , commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is a British Army officer initial training centre located in Sandhurst, Berkshire, England...

.

Galton now departed from Gauss in a way that became crucially significant to the history of the 20th century AD. The bell-shaped curve was not random, he concluded. The differences between the average and the upper end were due to a non-random factor, "natural ability," which he defined as "those qualities of intellect and disposition, which urge and qualify men to perform acts that lead to reputation ... a nature which, when left to itself, will, urged by an inherent stimulus, climb the path that leads to eminence." The apparent randomness of the scores were due to the randomness of this natural ability in the population as a whole, in theory.

Galton was looking for a combination of differences that would reveal "the existence of grand human animals, of natures preeminently noble, of individuals born to be kings of men." Galton's selection of terms influenced Binet: geniuses for those born to be kings of men and "idiots and imbeciles", two English pejoratives, for those at the other extreme of the "normal scheme." Darwin read and espoused Galton's work. Galton went on to develop the field of eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

.

Psychology


Genius is expressed in a variety of forms (e.g., mathematical, literary, performance). Genius may show itself in early childhood, as a prodigy with particular gifts (e.g., understanding), or later in life. Geniuses are often deemed as such after demonstrating great originality. They tend to have strong intuitions about their domains, and they build on these insights with tremendous energy. There is a cited link between creativity of genius and genetic mutations linked to psychosis.

A hypothesis called multiple intelligences
Theory of multiple intelligences
The theory of multiple intelligences was proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983 as a model of intelligence that differentiates intelligence into various specific modalities, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability....

 put forth by Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 professor Howard Gardner
Howard Gardner
Howard Earl Gardner is an American developmental psychologist who is a professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero and author of over twenty books translated into thirty languages. Since 1995, he has...

 in his 1983 book Frames of Mind states there are at least seven types of intelligences, each with its own type of genius.

Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell, CM is a Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He is currently based in New York City and has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996...

's book Outliers
Outliers (book)
Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown and Company on November 18, 2008. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success...

popularized a great deal of research into geniuses and mastery. Gladwell mentions the work of psychologist Anders Ericsson, who is an expert on expertise. As a result of his research, Ericsson suggests that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master something — what he calls the "10,000 rule." Outliers spends a great deal of time discussing other elements of chance that play a role in the creation of a genius, including Robert K. Merton
Robert K. Merton
Robert King Merton was a distinguished American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor...

's "Mathew Effect" (e.g. the rich get richer).

According to Ericsson, mentors play an important role in attaining mastery. Only so much can be taught, however, since many of a genius' skills may be implicit, meaning it is difficult for them to explain in words (i.e., make explicit
Explicit
Explicit can mean:* Sexually explicit, content that might be deemed offensive or graphic* the final words of a text, which are immediately followed by a colophon...

) how they do what they do.

IQ tests



One usage of the noun "genius" is closely related to the general concept of intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

. One currently accepted way of attempting to measure one's intelligence is with an IQ test. The label of "genius" for persons of high IQ was popularized by Lewis Terman
Lewis Terman
Lewis Madison Terman was an American psychologist, noted as a pioneer in educational psychology in the early 20th century at the Stanford University School of Education. He is best known as the inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ test...

. He and his colleague Leta Hollingworth suggested different scores as a cut-off for genius in psychometric terms. Terman considered it to be an IQ of 140, while Hollingworth put it at an IQ of 180.

In addition to the fundamental criticism that intelligence measured in this way is an example of reification
Reification (fallacy)
Reification is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea...

 and ranking fallacies, the IQ test has also been criticized as having a "cultural bias" in its interpretation despite assurances that these tests are designed to eliminate test bias.

Anders Ericsson argues that generally (with highly demanding fields like theoretical physics
Theoretical physics
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena...

 as the exception), after a person's IQ surpasses 120, their success is determined more by other qualities. In other words, there may be general decreasing return on raw mental power. Ericsson proposes social skills as an example of other qualities that are then more relevant to success. He also warns that IQ does not measure what many would consider "creativity" — sometimes measured by looking at an individual's Latent inhibition
Latent inhibition
Latent inhibition is a technical term used in Classical conditioning. A stimulus that has not had any significance in the past takes longer to acquire meaning than a new stimulus...

 instead of IQ.

Philosophy



Various philosophers have proposed definitions of what genius is and what that implies in the context of their philosophical theories.

In the philosophy of David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

, the way society perceives genius is similar to the way society perceives the ignorant. Hume states that a person with the characteristics of a genius is looked at as a person disconnected from society, as well as a person who works remotely, at a distance, away from the rest of the world. "On the other hand, the mere ignorant is still more despised; nor is any thing deemed a surer sign of an illiberal genius in an age and nation where the sciences flourish, than to be entirely destitute of all relish for those noble entertainments. The most perfect character is supposed to lie between those extremes; retaining an equal ability and taste for books, company, and business; preserving in conversation that discernment and delicacy which arise from polite letters; and in business, that probity and accuracy which are the natural result of a just philosophy."

In the philosophy of Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person. For Kant, originality was the essential character of genius. This genius is a talent for producing ideas which can be described as non-imitative. Kant's discussion of the characteristics of genius is largely contained within the Critique of Judgement
Critique of Judgement
The Critique of Judgment , or in the new Cambridge translation Critique of the Power of Judgment, also known as the third critique, is a philosophical work by Immanuel Kant...

and was well received by the Romantics
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 of the early 19th century. In addition, much of Schopenhauer's theory of genius, particularly regarding talent and the "disinterestedness" (i.e. "free play") of aesthetic contemplation, is directly derived from paragraphs of Part I of Kant's Critique of Judgment.
In the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

, a genius is someone in whom intellect predominates over "will
Will (philosophy)
Will, in philosophical discussions, consonant with a common English usage, refers to a property of the mind, and an attribute of acts intentionally performed. Actions made according to a person's will are called "willing" or "voluntary" and sometimes pejoratively "willful"...

" much more than within the average person. In Schopenhauer's aesthetics
Schopenhauer's aesthetics
Arthur Schopenhauer's aesthetics result from his doctrine of the primacy of the Will as the thing in itself, the ground of life and all being; and from his judgment that the Will is evil. Schopenhauer held that art offers a way for people to temporarily escape the suffering that results from willing...

, this predominance of the intellect over the will allows the genius to create artistic or academic works that are objects of pure, disinterested contemplation, the chief criterion of the aesthetic experience for Schopenhauer. Their remoteness from mundane concerns means that Schopenhauer's geniuses often display maladaptive traits in more mundane concerns; in Schopenhauer's words, they fall into the mire while gazing at the stars, an allusion to Plato's dialogue Theætetus
Theaetetus (dialogue)
The Theaetetus is one of Plato's dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. The framing of the dialogue begins when Euclides tells his friend Terpsion that he had written a book many years ago based on what Socrates had told him of a conversation he'd had with Theaetetus when Theaetetus was...

, in which Socrates tells of Thales (the first philosopher) being ridiculed for falling in such circumstances.
In the philosophy of Nietzsche, genius is merely the context which leads us to consider someone a genius. In Twilight of the Idols
Twilight of the Idols
Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, written in 1888, and published in 1889.-Genesis:...

, Nietzsche writes, "Great men, like great epochs, are explosive material in whom tremendous energy has been accumulated; their prerequisite has always been, historically and physiologically, that a protracted assembling, accumulating, economizing and preserving has preceded them – that there has been no explosion for a long time." In this way, Nietzsche follows in the line of German Idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

.

In the philosophy of Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

, genius entails that an individual possesses unique qualities and talents that make the genius especially valuable to the society in which he or she operates. However, Russell's philosophy further maintains that it's possible for such a genius to be crushed by an unsympathetic environment during his or her youth. Russell rejected the notion he believed was popular during his lifetime that, "genius will out."

See also



  • Child prodigy
    Child prodigy
    A child prodigy is someone who, at an early age, masters one or more skills far beyond his or her level of maturity. One criterion for classifying prodigies is: a prodigy is a child, typically younger than 18 years old, who is performing at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding...

  • Creativity
    Creativity
    Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

  • Genetic Studies of Genius
    Genetic Studies of Genius
    The Genetic Studies of Genius, today known as the Terman Study of the Gifted, is a still-running longitudinal study begun in 1921 to examine the development and characteristics of gifted children into adulthood...

  • Gifted education
    Gifted education
    Gifted education is a broad term for special practices, procedures and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented...

  • Historiometry
    Historiometry
    Historiometry is the historical study of human progress or individual personal characteristics, using statistics to analyze references to geniuses, their statements, behavior and discoveries in relatively neutral texts...

  • Intellectual giftedness
    Intellectual giftedness
    Intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. It is different from a skill, in that skills are learned or acquired behaviors...

  • List of Nobel laureates
  • MacArthur Fellows Program
    MacArthur Fellows Program
    The MacArthur Fellows Program or MacArthur Fellowship is an award given by the John D. and Catherine T...

  • Mega Society
    Mega Society
    Founded in 1982 by Ronald K. Hoeflin to facilitate psychometric research, the Mega Society is a high IQ society open to people who have scored at the one-in-a-million level on a test of general intelligence claimed to be able to discriminate at that level...

  • Multipotentiality
    Multipotentiality
    Multipotentiality is an educational and psychological term referring to a pattern found among intellectually gifted individuals."Because gifted students generally have diverse interests across numerous domains and may be capable of success in many endeavors or professions, they are confronted with...

  • Polymath
    Polymath
    A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...


External links