Monday, February 02, 2009

Genius & Tyranny 3

Tyranny is, let's say, a configuration of power, as genius is a configuration of knowledge. In both cases the configuration is oriented around a personality (the tyrant, the genius) who centers it.

There are other, less personal, ways to define a focus of knowledge and power. The touchstone of knowledge is truth, for example, while the touchstone of power is justice. Wisdom is a kind of absolute knowledge. And the only absolute power is, of course, love.

One might say: if my experience was all truth and wisdom, justice and love, how could the genius or the tyrant hold me in awe?

Genius is the takeover of knowledge by a strong personality. That personality may, of course, be one's own, but it is nonetheless a takeover, a knowledge-grab. (Just as the tyrant seizes power personally.) The genius renders truth and wisdom irrelevant, puts them out of the game. Genius is a way of knowing without respect for truth or wisdom. Could we perhaps say that genius does not transcend knowledge, that it remains immanent to the knowing it achieves?

But only if ... a big IF ... genius is like tyranny, homologous with it. Tyranny is power without respect for justice or love—power without decency. Is it not that tyranny fails to transcend power, that it remains immanent to the dominion it acquires?

And so there is a "tyrant of the intellect", i.e., a genius, as there is a "genius of volition", i.e., a tyrant.


Matt said...

I've been trying to figure this out:

what is 3456324512 x 4583747362378.

I'm not really sure, but the answer in independent of me or you.

Knowledge can be independent of the person in a way that a people can never be independent of a tyrant.

If I can be so frank, and bold, and honest, I feel your idea is a lousy one.

Now, pay attention, I don't associate *you* with your idea. Therefore, although I haven't met *you* and know next to nothing about you, based on what you've written here and only that, I find *you* interesting. Personally, I kind of like you. Just not your lousy idea.

They're different.

The idea that they are the same has caused much harm. I need not necessarily shoot you to extinguish your idea, I must just take pen in hand and write out an opinion. Again, the man and the idea are not one. An idiot savant might have a good idea. A stopped clock is always right twice a day.

The very notion of genius is a troubling one. Personally, I don't think such a creature exists. Try Karl Popper, _Objective Knowledge_.

I sincerely hope I have not offended you. I just spoke plainly and am a very fallible person. It might help to explain that I'm generally more wrong than I am right.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Not at all. I agree with about genius actually, it's more imagined than real.

"It is often said," writes Steve Fuller, "that history leads from the front, with visionary geniuses showing the way for future generations to follow. ... [But] genius is an occult mental property superstitiously projected backward to explain the cause of deeds that have already had a remarkable effect on us." (Thomas Kuhn, p. xi)

I immediately look for the homology, of course. And I think tyranny is an occult social property lets say. It is invoked to explain historical events that caused the tyrant. (Hence our misunderstanding of the role of people like Churchill and Hitler in world history.)

I think you and I are probably quite as independent of the answer to a multiplication problem as it is indepedent of us.

The moment at which the stopped clock is right passes immediately. It is the mystery of a working clock that it somehow, for all intents and purposes, manages to "keep up" with time. That is exactly what we mean by its "working" and clocks can of course be quite imperfect in this regard, running fast or slow.

A clock that is right by accident is not right. Not once. Not twice a day. But I don't want to give you another hangover.