RE: RARA-AVIS: Murderous geniuses

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 08 Apr 2004

<<Your one word answer (Beethoven) credits individual accomplishment, in hindsight.>>

He was considered a genius by his contemporaries.

<<That's cool, though clearly there is a strong element of social acceptance here too, even if that requires long periods of time.>>

In his case (as in many others), it didn't, but in other cases, notably Kafka's it was indeed after death --in this case, death *and* publication of a substantial body of work.

<<We don't apply the label "genius" to someone whose similar leaps of intellect are now forgotten, or uncorroborated.>>

We don't know who invented certain essential and highly nontrivial things, but if we did, we would probably call the inventor a genius. It may not have been a single person but a series of them --this is common. I don't think a single person invented harmony, or counterpoint. Certainly a single person did not invent mathematics.

But you are right in that the label is not the thing, and the label is given by each of us and says something about us, not about the referent. There is nothing that intrinsically begs to be called a genius. There is nothing that intrinsically begs to be called anything. Language is language, easily abused (by which I mean that the facts are far from the meaning given to the words).

Best, and I'd better think of something hardboiled to say before... Ah, Kafka is noir. And El Greco was a noir painter. And Beethoven's Grosse Fuge is quintessentially hardboiled.



# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 08 Apr 2004 EDT