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Author Topic: Geniuses are clear proof that people are not created equal  (Read 1260 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: September 21, 2013, 04:36:51 PM »

Banish the old bromide that all humans are created equal; it simply isn’t true. All of recorded history has shown that people are never equal in physical or intellectual prowess. Indeed, the various religions have held up countless prophets, apostles, sorcerers, and saints as exemplars of transcendent human power; the arts have seen the overarching creativity and artistry of such talents as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and William Shakespeare; and the natural sciences have taken quantum leaps in development because of such extraordinary rational thinkers or inventors as Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. Each of them was unquestionably a genius whose intellect towered above that of ordinary folks like you and me.



In Divine Fury: A History of Genius (Basic Books, 360 pages), American historian Darrin M. McMahon traces the roots and evolution of the concept of genius from antiquity all the way to the present. “Every age, and every culture, has its heroes of the mind… (who) serve as painful reminders of our own inadequacies,” McMahon says in the book. “But they also illustrate nicely the simple fact that intelligence knows no bounds. Whatever the vagaries of the statistical laws that distribute human aptitude across time and space, they pay little heed to nation, culture, or race. Many in the West long denied these basic continuities, boasting, as some do still, of an inherent superiority of mind. But this book defends no such claims, even (and especially) when it tries to understand them. In short, if we take genius to mean exceptional intelligence or high IQ, great learning, performance, or presence of mind, then ‘the genius’ is both a creature of all seasons and a citizen of the world.”

Says Harvard University history professor Peter E. Gordon in his review of Divine Fury: “It is rare to find an historian who writes in a style both so sure-footed and so light, and with such joy in the telling of a tale. In his engaging new book Darrin McMahon takes us on an intellectual adventure, tracing the transformation of the idea of genius as it shed its sacred garments to become the common property of our own democratic age.”

Read an excerpt from Darrin McMahon’s Divine Fury: A History of Genius now!

Read Joseph Epstein’s “I Dream of Genius,” a related essay, in Commentary Magazine now!
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Darrin M. McMahon is the Ben Weider Professor of History at Florida State University. He was educated at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale University, where he received his PhD in 1998. He is the author of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001), and Happiness: A History (Atlantic Monthly Books, 2006).

ANOTHER INTERESTING READING:
In The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (Zone Books, 208 pages), Ben Kafka, New York University assistant professor of media history and theory, offers a critical history and theory of one of the most ubiquitous, least understood forms of media: paperwork. By examining episodes that range from the story of a clerk who lost his job and then his mind in the French Revolution to an account of Roland Barthes’s brief stint as a university administrator, Kafka reveals the powers and the failures as well as the pleasures of paperwork.



Read Peter Lopatin’s “The Write Stuff,” a review of Ben Kafka’s The Demon of Writing, in WeeklyStandard.com now!
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