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« The Look of Betrayal | Main | Polish the tiara, ladies! »

Monday, December 03, 2007


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Joshie Juice

We're all guilty, I agree. And I'm not sure there is a solution as much as a better way to manage our passing gestures. I think that better way has something to do with re-valuing the affective at the level of signification: that is, theorizing emotion's role in the domain of representation (and in the domain that eludes representation).

Hmm. I'm not sure how that "better management" translates outside of the academy. I'll have to think about it . . . but there's something about ethics here.

No way out, though, you're right. Better way "in it": I feel so.


First, my view point:

Yes, I do tend to accept wider variation in behavior for people who excel in some way. I've been saying for a long time: "I'll put up with a lot for competence". I don't see this as a problem. In fact, I tend to seek out this kind of person to hang out with because (as long they don't exceed some tolerance level, such as Sloop bounded with murder) they're more interesting than average.

On a broader perspective, "brilliance" is remarkable because it's rare. I'm going to call all those things Sloop was talking about (positive and negative) as "social conformance". Leaving aside how much more examined "brilliant" people are than average people, I'll note that social conformance doesn't seem to be completely universal, either even amongst the non-brilliant.

So, if we demand our "brilliant" people to also be socially conformant, we're going to ignore a sizable portion of our "brilliant" people who could otherwise make us some good mileage towards some goal (e.g. Special Relativity, the largest airplane of it's time, etc, etc) that is socially beneficial.

As you start adding more and more requirements to *anything*, from cars to people, you start making them more rare and therefore more expensive. At some point you have to realize that you've added so many constraints that some really valuable things aren't passing your standards.

So, I think part of this tolerance is a recognition that it really is worth it, in general, to accept some things we otherwise wouldn't in order to get the benefit of the brilliance.

There are, of course, plenty of societies where conformance is valued more then exceptional capability. As a wise young man recently remarked to me: "Those people aren't my tribe."

At the highest level, historically brilliance seems to be strongly correlated with changing the status quo -- i.e. not being socially conformant for whatever society they're in. I'm not sure if this is cause or effect, or if there is some minor kind of "insanity" responsible for both.

Perhaps most "brilliant" people spend so much time and energy being brilliant that they don't have time left to be polite. I call your attention to this essay.

I am pretty sure that if we require our "brilliant" people to be just like everyone else socially, instead of ending up with polite geniuses we'll end up with very few brilliant people and we'll miss them.

Joshie Juice

Dewey: you underscore the point better than I could. It's about value, and that what gets devalued is emotion and feeling. "Brilliance" isn't associated with the affective; that's why it gets a pass.


Seems obvious, but still worth mentioning: the people to whom "we" give the "brilliant pass" are almost always men. Women do not get the pass.


Silly caraf. Like women can even be "brilliant!"

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