Sunday, January 6, 2019


I ask the gifted (or would), figuratively speaking: “What is ‘genius’?”

I’d prefer to seek the gifted non-figuratively: those who’ve dwelled with the reality of their own talent (irt their preferred domain and their hope for lasting influence), so that we may dwell together in issues of leading mind— I, to learn from “you”; you and others to have a neat chance to influence me (please).

To begin with, isn’t inquiry into giftedness a better standard for prospecting the “nature” of our humanity than inquiry into commonality apart from talent? The standard research interest is in universal traits, because our “nature” must be about what’s common to any person.

But that’s invalid: High talent is different from common talent, and that’s more interesting for understanding our nature: as potential that’s more prominent for some persons than for others. So, let’s understand that notable presence.

And isn’t inquiry into leading minds a better standard for prospecting conceptual value than common conceptuality (“general” understanding)?

But, as a matter of history, there’s confusion of ‘genius’ and ‘giftedness’: Giftedness is about high talent, by consensus. Genius should be understood as more than high talent, but has not been. Genius shows domain mastery and accomplishes something worthy of wide influence—according to researchers I’ll mention below.

Not directly relevant, but very interesting is the etymology of ‘genius’. I’ll dwell with that briefly (from M-W Unabridged), then go briefly to a review of standard research on “genius.”

‘Genius’ has always (14th century onward) served to posit high singularity of individuals—originally as being in individuals, there essentially (but concealed?).

Firstly, “genius” was internalized from elsewhere, “an attendent spirit” which can be importantly associated with ideas of gaining nearness to godliness by being granted the spirit within the person (rather than the tribe). This is a modern notion (traceable to Renaissance adoration of Greek Classicism—rather than traceable to Christic favor, because genius is a gift of natural spirit).

The sense of being gifted became more localized, as innate talent emerging from the life—a naturalization of The Gift or de-theologization: “strong leaning,... distinctive, or identifying character : essential nature....”

This becomes a more explicit focus on talent as essence of the highly admirable mind. “A singular strongly marked capacity or aptitude... extraordinary native intellectual power especially as manifested in unusual capacity for creative activity of any kind... a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority, inventiveness, and ability.”

But this is all about talent, not especially about achievement or potential for influence (though intimations of that appear).

This bias—an under-differentiation (or lack of such) between giftedness and genius—continued into the evolution of academic psychology. That can be troped as an interest in essence which [thereby] concealed (and neglected) the active, engaged project-ivity that reaches highly admirable status through long persistence of devoted work.

Oddly, the sense of enactive genius is “more popular” (E. Britannica, and hereon): “creative ability of an exceptionally high order as demonstrated by actual achievement,” which is counter to essentialist academic tradition, until around the early 1990s.

“ in areas not previously explored—thus giving the world something of value that would not otherwise exist.” This is annually honored through so-called “genius awards” by the MacArthur Foundation. “New ways of describing genius nearly always incorporate ability, creativity, mastery of a domain, and other personality traits such as autonomy and capacity for endurance.” 

Britannica’s author mentions Howard Garder and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (MC, below), who are important figures (and have influenced me for many years), but the author fails to mention the leading researcher in intelligence who has also given decades of attention to giftedness, nature of insight, and creativity, as well as being the authority on intelligence as such: Robert J. Sternberg. Sternberg is also an enthusiast of Gardner and MC! And his late-career book Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized suggests by merely its title the 3-fold sense of leading mind that MC promotes: actualized talent (“intelligence”), domain mastery (“creativity”), and field efficacy (“wisdom”).

Actually, the 3-fold conception that I sketched earlier is a simplified version of a conception that synthesizes Sternberg, Gardner, MC, Hull, and others. The elaboration of that involves a scaffolding of conceptuality spanning my entire Project, which is actually skeletal for the entirety of it—skeletal in an infrastructural, architextual sense (not a precursory sense).

The potentially evolutionary encyclogeny (so to speak) of high individuation across generations—actualization of high talent, important conceptual inclusive fitness, and lasting influence (in education and society)—is a prospect I would have the gifted entertain, because I’m
a student of their being, venturing to do my best in light of what gives.