Can Genius Be Taught?

William James, in his Principles of Psychology, talks about two types of genius, the analytical genius, which are the men of science and philosophy, and the intuitive genius, which are men of poetry and music. Much of genius is how one thinks. What are your heuristics, are you going through associations by relation, contradiction, resemblance, succession, cause and effect, means and ends, parts and whole, beautiful and grotesque, truth and untruth, and the moral and amoral, which would accelerate ones education? These categorical polarities create mental friction for one to gain traction when thinking. Part of knowing these categories is a good memory to remember all the heuristics to thought, logical or otherwise. Now, people are either born with a good memory or not, you can’t change that. However, you can develop ways to think better. The seasoned actor knows how to think well. They aren’t necessarily geniuses but they have mental heuristics that allow for them to remember lines in a way that triggers their thought.

Consumate geniuses, such as Plato, Goethe, and Leonardo Da Vinci, balance the intuitive and the analytical sides of our nature to make intelligence appear beautiful. I believe its harder to be an intuitive genius because its foundation is based an raw feeling. Goethe’s philosophy, the priest of the romantic philosophy, was based on such feeling. Feeling taps into our intuitive side extremely well. For example, Homer calls upon the muses when recalling the epic of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Allowing the muse to influence us is generally when one exits their identity and let the divinity, the muse, enter within. Plato calls this a sort of madness. But the intuitive side is sublimated partially and that’s what it means to dive underneath the surface of our conscious, where we lose our identity. Analytical genius needs to have a good memory to a certain degree to remember how logic and mathematics work, and remember the great ideas, or rather, the great heuristics. This can be from prolonged hard thinking, or, if your lucky, an excellent memory. Many geniuses become bored quickly because they understand so quickly while masters of the field have learned patience to carefully examine every detail. I believe genius can be taught, given the foundations for the faculties of memory and feeling aren’t in ill order.


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