The conspicuous lack of genius
In the childrearing thread, which seems to be winding down, we stumbled on the topic of geniuses in the last few posts. In this new thread, I would like to discuss some things I mentioned, and hear your perspectives on the apparent lack of great minds in todays world. In connection with this, we might want to find a definition for what a genius is, and what this means for science and philosophy.

To start off, it is my opinion that genius is mostly a role in relation to the masses, rather than some sort of objective capability:

(02-13-2023, 02:04 PM)Hamamelis Wrote: Re: Genius, and the lack thereof:

This seems to be mostly a discussion about what makes a genius, and thus not extremely important for our discussion. What I would add is that Hoel (like others) prematurely dismisses the low-hanging fruit explanation for the ebb in scientific breakthrough. This is not our topic here, but I think it is truly underappreciated how different the landscape of knowledge has become over the last hundred years. It's not that there is nothing left to discover. Rather, what can be discovered now (often at high expenses) rarely brings about a new understanding of the field. This is means most discoveries now expand owned space, rather than conquer unowned space. This changes the nature of a scientist from that of an explorer to that of a labourer. Is somebody like that ever considered a "genius"?

Further, I think Hoel (like others) doesn't calculate how important reverence is to the status of genius. One reason why we don't have a Mozart right now is that there is no way for him to attain a comparable status by achievement. He can't be court composer of a beloved or feared king, and any way to achieve success is routed through economic institutions that make a commodity out of fame, such that the achievement is forever diminished.

To elaborate a bit more: A genius is somebody who uses his intellect to conquer a new realm of thought. This is always in a cultural context - you can't be a genius without other people. In particular, to be recognised as a genius in your lifetime, you will need to create some work that is admired by many, such that your intellect is compared to that of your peers, and found to be extraordinary among the extraordinary.

Eckart's reply:

(02-13-2023, 07:15 PM)Eckart Wrote: ...

In my opinion, the low-hanging fruit explanation is mainly used as an excuse by those, who don't want to admit that something might be wrong in our times and that we are in decline. Why did it take over a millennium for the Renaissance to occur, if the fruits were hanging so low? Why does it just so happen, that this ebb in scientific breakthrough coincides with our biological and cultural degeneration? I don't buy it. But more to this maybe in a dedicated thread.


I don't necessarily agree that reverence is essential to the existance of genius since there are far to many examples to the contrary. One might even argue, that it is the watermark of true genius, to be so obsessed and consumed by the felt importance of his work, that he does not care about the admiration and encouragement of others.
I do agree however, that in todays world, artistic works of high quality seem to not be marketable as they were in the past, because there is no aristocratic audience. Or maybe they are not produced in the first place, because the individuals who would normally produce them, can not reach maturity and flourish in todays culture?

To address the low hanging fruits: The point of this metaphor is not to say that such things were "easy" to explain, or discover. Rather, for example, a difficult technological milestone like lenses and their application in microscopes and telescopes makes whole area of scientific exploration "easy" in relation to the skill level of a society that could produce microscopes and telescopes. This is why many discoveries follow each other in short order. My point with regards to the dearth of ground-breaking scientific achievements in the last 75-100 years is that we are bound to find some sort of locally optimal theory for most, if not all areas of research. This means that, even though there might be a theory closer to the "truth", with more predictive power, building such a theory would seem unpromising for so long that in practice it will not be pursued. Therefore, most if not all scientific work today is done in the confines of existing theories - which does not mean that nothing new is discovered, but it does mean that we are stuck. This is less obvious maybe in "difficult" areas like economics, where lots of progress would be possible if some sort of rigor came to exist in the field. It's very obvious in physics, chemistry and biology.

This relates closely to the role of the genius: A guy like Einstein, today, would simply spend his days in a cozy university job, his whole output reduced to the definition of the eleventh decimal place of some universal constant. This takes an IQ of 180, but nobody will call him a genius, because nobody except his tiny circle of peers cares.
I believe there are passages from Bronze Age Mindset which are relevant to this topic.

From aphorism 53:

Quote:We take the wolves and lions and leopards from among us when pups and break them with false ideas, vicious conditioning, and lately, drugs that would have lobotomized a da Vinci, an Alexander, a Frederick the Great out of existence in his youth. Then the energy that remains to them is channeled into mindless work for money. Labor and commerce are the ways to subject you to mere life and its preservation: when the superior are corrupted to a life of work and finance, they slowly move for their own destruction in the long run.

The System is actively anti-genius.
We moved from culture to civilization. Once a city-state can maintain nukes men of genius will have an outlet
(02-17-2023, 10:50 PM)Guest Wrote: We moved from culture to civilization. Once a city-state can maintain nukes men of genius will have an outlet

Spengler is quite clear that civilizations still have their geniuses and great accomplishments, but they are both directed towards material, political, economic, military, technological, and architectural ends rather than artistic or spiritual ones. He praises the Roman aqueduct and Colosseum, contrasting them with the emptiness of the shallow Greek-imitating Roman attempts at new poetry or art. Civilization does not in and of itself preclude the work of geniuses... our Culture to Civilization shift happened around 1800, yet geniuses such as Cecil Rhodes or the men who worked on the Apollo missions still had plenty of quite historically proper material outlets for their genius afterwards. The problem of our age is different, subtle and wicked and vile. I believe (or perhaps merely hope) that the coming of Western Caesar shall resolve this. Certainly an aspiring populist dictator, the man who ushers in the final victory of the politics of blood and force over the preceding politics of mind and money, would do well to rally the young disaffected geniuses of his home nation behind him in opposition to the corrupt and sclerotic oligarchs of the Plutocratic Age who will oppose his rule.

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