Friday, October 24, 2014

Where Have All the Geniuses (and Heroes, Saints, etc.) Gone?

A brilliant article at The Nautilus declares that the genius is dead.The premise is wrong, but the content of the article is, for the most part, right. The cult of genius as a dominant cultural force is dead, of course, but the cult of genius as a remnant cultural force is not.

The author himself demonstrates how this is true in his observation that the genius replaced the saint. But why did the genius replace the saint? And why didn't the genius actually replace the saint (we still have people who believe in saints, after all)?

The idea of genius is a product of a particular psychosocial level of complexity. In the same way that the level that gave us guilt as a driving social regulator gave us the saint, the level that gives us responsibility as a driving social regulator also gave us the genius as the exemplar of what it means to be human. This being the case, one would expect to see different exemplars at each level of psychosocial complexity. And we do.

The tribal level gives us Caregivers.
Shame cultures give us Heroes.
Guilt cultures give us Saints.
Responsibility cultures give us Geniuses.
Collective Guilt cultures give us something tantamount to Secular Saints.

Given that the above have all given us not just particular psychologies, but fully developed societies as well, the exemplars are easy to identify. But we should see a pattern here. Caregivers, Saints, and Secular Saints are similar types; so, too, are Heroes and Geniuses. We would expect, then a Naturalistic Principles culture to give rise to something similar to a Hero or Genius (given people at this level tend to be interdisciplinary, perhaps a Universal Genius?), and a Global Contextualism culture to give rise to something similar to a Caregiver/Saint (perhaps a Global Caregiver?).

So the genius has not gone away. (S)He has just been joined and superseded by the Collective Guilt culture and their pantheon of secular saints who fight for social justice. In fact, the "democratization" of "genius" is part and parcel of this psychosocial level, and how it dissipates the idea of genius. But those whose lives are regulated by Responsibility will of course continue to believe in the Genius, just like those in the Guilt cultures still believe in Saints and those in Shame cultures still believe in Heroes.

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