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genius,in Roman religion, guardian spirit of a man, a family, or a state. In some instances, a place, a city, or an institution had its genius. As the guardian spirit of an individual, the genius (corresponding to the Greek demon) was largely the force of one's natural desires. The genius of the paterfamilias was honored in familial worship as a household god and was thought to perpetuate a family through many generations. Notable achievements or high intellectual powers of an individual were attributed to his genius, and ultimately a man of achievements was said to have genius or to be a genius.
the highest level of manifestation of man’s creative forces. The term “genius” is used both to indicate a man’s creative ability and to evaluate the results of his activities. Assuming an innate capability to productive endeavors in some field, genius, as opposed to talent, not only represents the highest degree of giftedness but also is connected with the creation of qualitatively new works and with the discovery of previously unknown creative methods. The activities of genius are achieved in a definite historical context of life in human society, on which genius draws for its creativity.
In the psychology of creativity, genius is studied as a function of individual personal characteristics, such as psychological make-up and abilities, and of various factors affecting creativity. From the psychological point of view, genius cannot be considered a particular personality type. Various attempts to isolate a particular general psychological or psychopathological feature of genius have been unsatisfactory: geniuses exhibit significant individual differences in giftedness, character, culture, interests, habits, and so on. The creative process in geniuses does not differ in principle from the creative process in other gifted persons. A number of concepts of genius, beginning with that of C. Lombroso, postulated a connection between genius and psychological imbalance. This theory did not receive general acceptance because, while disharmony in spiritual life or a proclivity to disharmony is found in many persons of genius, it is not invariably the companion of genius.
Historical concepts of the nature of genius and its evaluation are related to a general understanding of the creative process. The ancients (Plato and, later, Neoplatonists) viewed genius as a type of irrational, “divine inspiration.” With the Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, G. Vasari, J. Scaliger) came the cult of genius as creative individuality, which reached its apogee in the romantic period, as exemplified by the preromantic Sturm und Drang in Germany, romanticism, and the theories, evolved from romanticism and characterized by the opposition of genius and the masses, of T. Carlyle and F. Neitzsche. The concept of genius in the contemporary meaning of the word developed in the 18th century. It became a fundamental aesthetic concept in A. Shaftesbury’s system: genius creates in a like manner to the forces of nature; its creations are original, in contrast to imitative artists. I. Kant also emphasized the originality and naturalness of creative genius: genius is the “natural endowment of the soul …, through which nature gives order to art” (Soch., vol. 5, Moscow, 1966, p. 323). F. Schiller described the nature of genius through the concept of naïveté as the instinctive following of artless nature and the ability to grasp the world spontaneously.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, psychological (including psychiatric), sociopsychological, and sociological investigations have been made into various aspects of genius and creativity.
REFERENCESGruzenberg, S. O. Genii i tvorchestvo. Leningrad, 1924.
Zholi, G. Psikhologiia velikikh liudei. St. Petersburg, 1894.
Ostwald, W. Velikie liudi. St. Petersburg, 1910. (Translated from German.)
Wolf, H. Versuch einer Geschichte des Geniebegriffes. Heidelberg, 1923.
Genetic Studies of Genius, 2nd ed., vols. 1-4. Edited by L. M. Terman. [Stanford, Calif.] 1926-47.
Kretschmer, E. Geniale Menschen, 5th ed. Berlin, 1958.