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Where are geniuses, thinkers and polymaths?

Comments on Where are geniuses, thinkers and polymaths?

Receptionista
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Posted 09/13/11 - 6:37 PM:

Thanks for the clarification, libertygrl- and I think it's the niggling details of where the line is between Genius and Subject Mastery and between *that* and Great Thinker that stirs the debate.

I think the term Genius is bandied about too easily these days; like giving everyone an "A for Effort" or a Participation Ribbon, anyone with a clever idea can be called a Genius at some point or another.
Doesn't that dilute the term from a superlative down to a mere modifier?

What if, instead of the number of Geniuses in a set increasing exponentially as the world population increases, it actually remains static? Instead of one Genius (G) per Xnumber of people, it is more of G/culture or even G/field? That would certainly be more likely than untold numbers of geniuses hiding away from the spotlight or being beaten down/incarcerated/medicated.
libertygrl
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Posted 09/14/11 - 3:52 PM:

Receptionista wrote:
What if, instead of the number of Geniuses in a set increasing exponentially as the world population increases, it actually remains static? Instead of one Genius (G) per Xnumber of people, it is more of G/culture or even G/field?

there is another possibility as well, which is that the occurrence of genius in populations has no recognizable pattern. in other words, bunch of geniuses here and there, interspersed with long periods of no genius.

the idea that it may occur in a pattern of X amount of genius/number of geniuses per culture, or per field, would suggest a human tendency to reduce expectations on the rest of the population once an ideal has been achieved. i think the competitive spirit of humanity would tend to work against such an inclination. i'm reminded of the mile run world record progression wherein a certain world record remained unbeatable for decades until newsreel coverage publicized the sport which led to several people beating the record in a very short time.[/quote[

Receptionista wrote:
That would certainly be more likely than untold numbers of geniuses hiding away from the spotlight or being beaten down/incarcerated/medicated.

curious to know, what leads you to believe in the greater likelihood of ratios such as you describe?

Receptionista wrote:
I think the term Genius is bandied about too easily these days; like giving everyone an "A for Effort" or a Participation Ribbon, anyone with a clever idea can be called a Genius at some point or another. Doesn't that dilute the term from a superlative down to a mere modifier?

there are also folks who feel the "talent" label is being applied too generously of late, for example to young children who have a lot of exuberance and personality and who may share say, musical performances on youtube leading them to receive much praise when actual skill may be lacking in a technical sense.
creative
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Posted 11/29/11 - 2:42 PM:

Interesting thread.

I'm going to briefly touch upon several different aspects of consideration, if I may. Any given one could be further developed in thought should anyone choose to engage. This being my initial post, I'll first thank the site and it's administrators for it's much needed existence.

Nowadays, the term "genius" is often applied by a speaker to another who has thought about things in such a way that the speaker themself are led to an epiphany of sorts... "Oh yeah, that's it." Of course, that is not the intended target meaning here. It is also often applied to one who seems to have developed a novel way of doing things, or one who has created a novel thing itself, i.e - an invention/solution which many others find useful. This scenario is often said to have come off the heels of "a stroke of genius". Inventors themselves are often called genuises. Another use is to apply it to any given person who, through whatever means, finds a way to solve an existing problem... whatever that problem may be. The only point here is to highlight the notion that the meaning of a term can change with a change in use.

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Others have already mentioned the foundational nature of human knowledge and how it applies to this topic. Knowledge is accrued. Therefore, to require a person to come up with some sort of completely original notion(which requires bits of knowledge) in order to be called a "genius" would be like requiring someone to create a previously unknown audible range of sounds in order to be called a musical "genius". It is an impossible criterion to satisfy. We all stand upon the shoulders of those before us.

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Thinking about paradigm shift... Paradigm shift requires a change in collective thought. Hence, the Copernican revolution took hold long after the thinking actually took place. We(most of the civilized world) are currently amidst another sort of 'revolution'. The secular one, and it came through philosophy. We are still in the infancy stage of a secular world, and I would even posit that there are still remnants/tenets of religious thinking pervading secular thinking, especially regarding truth, ethics, and/or morality. I think that that ought be an active variable in this discussion because I hold that some cancerous memes have taken hold of the majority of people within the secular world, and undoing the damage is purely a matter disconnecting the aforementioned 'concepts' from the concept of God. The scarequotes surround the term "concept" indicate my rejection of the notion that truth is a man-made concept. Getting truth right is at the basis of my contentions.

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Many folk dismiss the relevance of philosophy in today's day and age. By and in large, the pragmaticist within me agrees. I mean, anyone who regularly engages in philosophical thought, studies philosophy, and what not and then goes out into the world, engages a conversation while applying philosophical principles, will soon find that much more time will be spent explaining things that philosophers often take for granted. It often seems a waste of time and effort, and it clearly shows how far removed the everyday life of everyday people is from philosophical thought. The busy day to day activities of most people do not require them to think much about the things that philosophers often do, even though the collective consensus has been forged through philosophy itself, as an imposter forges a signature, that is.

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In closing I would say that the ground is fertile for paradigm shift, but because the resistance comes on many fronts and tremendously outweighs the potential/liklihood for it's instantiation/general acceptance, the genius that I believe the author is looking for will be the one who unites the differences in opinion in a way that all can understand.
fairyprince
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Posted 11/29/11 - 2:59 PM:

It's not all that complex a reason. I side with Win Wenger, thinking specifically of John Stewart Mill, whose father set out to raise a prodigy, and did just that.

The current systems are set up towards specialization, and life long endeavours. Polymaths know, and make use of many different fields of inquiry, and at high levels. Work is more delegated now. What was done by Plato himself would now be done by a whole group of thinkers, focusing on different things, and bringing different perspectives, viewpoints and skill sets to the table. It is no longer necessary, or even beneficial to absurd it all yourself.

Thirdly, ability and influence are different things. We name the greats from the past because of the influence they had on the world, rather than that they were right about everything, the smartest people of their time, or anything of the sort. They were the most influential thinkers, not necessarily the best.

There is also more competition now, and far more information to be known about each subject.
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