What is Genius?

Genius is the result of a rare natural ability which, often when nourished, creates new ideas or items.

Saying that it is a “rare natural ability” makes my definition different than that held by Simone de Beauvoir when she wrote, “One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius” (Beauvoir 133). It comes down to a philosophical question about the nature of man in which one must decide if we are all born equal mentally or whether some people are born with different mental makeups than others. My definition implies that not all humans are born with an equal mental capacity that just needs to be nourished. We are each different and unique, and some of us might be blessed with genius. “Rare” is an intentionally vague word because I really do not know how much of humanity is gifted with the potential of genius, but it is not common.

Although nourishment helps, it is not always required. Sometimes an individual can exhibit genius without seeing examples of genius or being instructed how to create new things. It seems to happen in some cases because they are not nourished. Others might not exhibit genius until being nourished to a point at which a new idea just clicks in their head.

Just because you are born with the ability to be genius does not inherently mean that genius will manifest itself. Genius must create or it will be wasted. Genius must manifest itself in an expressed intellectual manner or in a new creation if it is to be truly called genius. Otherwise, it is just potential. One might have the ability, but if that ability is not nourished and given an outlet, it might just rot away and never reveal itself. Jean-Paul Sartre spoke about genius in his essay on Existentialism: “There is no genius other than one which is expressed in works of art; the genius of Proust is the sum of Proust's works; the genius of Racine is his series of tragedies. Outside of that, there is nothing. Why say that Racine could have written another tragedy, when he did not write it? A man is involved in life, leaves his impress on it, and outside of that there is nothing” (Sartre 1206). A person can exhibit genius and we might label them as geniuses, but not everything that a “genius” does is genius.

Genius is not just expressing the old in a clearer or more concise way. It is connecting “concepts or physical elements” in a completely new way. Creation is taking what is there and bringing it together to produce new ideas and items. Genius is a new way to look at the world, the creation of a new metal, the manufacturing of an item that we all need but never realized, or a new way to interact with one another. Genius is the ability to bring to reality that which nobody has ever created before.

Genius is the result of a rare natural ability which, often when nourished, creates new ideas or items.

Beauvoir, Simone de. “Since the French Revolution: the Job and the Vote.” The Second Sex. 1949. bk. I, pt 2, ch. 8: 133. Wikipedia. 23 Oct. 2007. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Simone_De_Beauvoir.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Existentialism.” The Norton Reader. 11th edn. Ed. Linda Peterson & John C. Brereton. New York: Norton, 2004. 1199-1207.