What Is Genius?

Genius is a talent for producing that for which no definite rule can be given; it is not a mere aptitude for what can be learnt by a rule. Hence originality must be his first property.

- Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans. J. H. Bernard

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg explores genius and inspiration. “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”. So said Jonathon Swift, many people’s choice for a genius himself. But what does that word really mean? Are geniuses born or made? And what are the circumstances necessary for the great leaps of consciousness that inspire the development of science and art? Did Einstein’s brain arrive like that - markedly different from the expected formation - or did it become like that through thought? If genius does not exist, why are we so keen to invent it? Was Mozart programmed or pre-programmed and was Newton or anyone else solely responsible for inventing anything?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Inspiration and Genius

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

WHERE does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.

But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.

Historically speaking, locating genius within individuals is a recent enterprise...

Continue reading Joshua Wolf Shenk's article: The End of ‘Genius’

Further Reading

A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creative productivity, universality in genres or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new advances in a domain of knowledge. Despite the presence of scholars in many subjects throughout history, many geniuses have shown high achievements in only a single kind of activity.

There is no scientifically precise definition of genius, and the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate, although psychologists are converging on a definition that emphasizes creativity and eminent achievement. Usually, genius is associated with talent, but many authors (for example Cesare Lombroso) systematically distinguish these terms...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Genius

Bonus Webcomic

Fine Line - SMBC

Related Topics

If you’re interested in the idea of genius, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 CognitionImaginationIntelligence | Wisdom

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