Sunday, August 4, 2013

Genius from Socrates to Hitler and Beyond

Philosophers have been fascinated by what makes a great man. Plato told of Scorates daimon that inspired him. In the Renaissance, inspiration came from God. The cult of genius in Europe in the early 20th century led to the rise of Hitler. Today IQ tests are used to identify genius, but then perhaps everyone has a genius in some area.

Devine Fury charts the changes in the definition of genius from Plato through Terman. The book is packed with information with chapters devoted to the Greeks, the Christianity, the moderns, the romantics, geniology, or how to detect genius, the religion of genius, and today's take on everyone's genius.

I found the book very readable, but I have to admit it helps to have at least a passing acquaintance with the major philosophers. The book is packed the quotations illustrating the philosophical theory under discussion. There are also a myriad of pictures giving the artists' conception of genius. I think it's interesting that genius originally was applied to the arts and only lately became the province of scientists and politicians.

I highly recommend this book if you're interested in the history of genius. I found it fascinating to trace the thoughts about what constitutes genius and whether it resides inside or outside the person, as divine inspiration from the gods or God. It's not an easy book, but it's well worth reading.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.