Previous Page An Issue 77.
Although genius is difficult to define, one of the qualities of genius is the ability to transcend traditional modes of thought and create new ones. Question
Explain what you think the above statement means and discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this definition of genius. In your discussion, be sure to include at least one example of someone who, in your opinion, exemplifies genius or a particular characteristic of genius. Analysis
I strongly agree that true genius is the ability to see beyond conventional modes of thinking and to suggest new and better ones. This definition properly sets genius apart from lesser instances of critical acumen, inventiveness or creativity. Under this definition, a true genius must successfully
(1) Challenge the assumptions underlying a current paradigm.
(2) Supplant the old paradigm with a new, better and more fruitful one.
This two-pronged standard for true genius is aptly illustrated by examining the scientific contribution of the 15th-century astronomer Copernicus. Prior to Copernicus, our view of the universe was governed by the Ptolemaic paradigm of a geocentric universe according to which our earth was in a fixed position at the centre of the universe with other heavenly bodies revolving around it. Copernicus challenged this paradigm and its key assumptions by introducing a distinction between real motion and motion that is merely apparent. In doing so, he satisfied the first requirement of a true genius.
Had Copernicus managed to show only that the old view and its assumptions were problematic we would not consider him a genius today. Copernicus went on, however, to develop a new paradigm. He claimed that the earth is rotating while hurtling rapidly through space and that other heavenly bodies only appear to revolve around the earth. Moreover, he reasoned that his view about the earth's real motion could explain the apparent motion of the sun, stars and other planets around the earth. It turned out he was right. And his theories helped facilitate Galileo's empirical observations, Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Newton's gravitational principle.
To sum up, I find the proposed definition of true genius incisive and accurate and the example of Copernicus aptly points up the two required elements of true genius required by the definition.