Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Your personal choice of five living geniuses?

Mine are living people whose genius I have 'felt' for myself (rather than going by other people's evaluations).

In no particular order:

1. James D Watson (DNA)
2. Freeman Dyson (Theoretical Physicist etc)
3. David Healy (Psychiatry)
4. JK Rowling (for the Harry Potter saga, nothing else!)
5. Susanna Clarke (for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell)

(Note: no living poets, playwrights, artists or composers (that I know of) are geniuses by my estimation.)

And yours are?...

NOTE: This particular blog post is a 'Safe Space'! - This means I won't publish comments critical of other people's choices - Here, I am simply interested to see who other people regard as living geniuses; not to defend or attack or debate these choices.


Kirk Forlatt said...

I'm hardly qualified to determine who passes as a genius, but my instinctive and immediate response to the question was a single name: Dalhart Windberg.

Solomon Buccola said...

There is one towering above them all, the only name that will be a household word in 150 years, the Shakespeare of our time - Bob Dylan.

Beyond that, I am inclined to mention:
David Kinsley (The Sword and the Flute)
Theodore Roszak (Making of the Counterculture/Where the Wasteland Ends - which introduced me to Goethean Science)
Samuel Delaney (specifically for Dahlgren, which is a work of genius, although much of his other work is sub-par)

Solomon Buccola said...

Apparently Roszak died a few years ago. I hadnt heard about it.

John Fitzgerald said...

Joseph Ratzinger
Geoffrey Hill
Arvo Part
Roger Scruton
Alan Garner

So, a priest, a poet, a composer, a philosopher and a novelist.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Wow, this is hard. I'm struggling to think of even two, let alone five!

Anyway, I'd say Noam Chomsky -- for his linguistic work, of course, not his "public intellectual" shtick.

Alex said...

The painter George Shaw.

FO said...

Dr. Robert Godwin aka Gagdad Bob

Bonald said...

My first thought was Roger Penrose.

Regarding him and Dyson, we see that some genius physicists are still alive, but they're old and their really groundbreaking work is decades behind them.

Karl said...

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wizard of Earthsea);
Tom Wolfe (journalism and novels);
Larry Wall (the Perl programming language); and I would probably round out my list with a couple more programmers. I think there are mathematical geniuses still extant, but I don't know enough about their work.

David Balfour said...

David Deutsch?

AdamW said...

Christopher Alexander, architect.

Geoff said...

Scott Adams for creating Dilbert and applying rhetorical theory to election cycles.
I know a budding mathematician who will be a huge deal in a decade or so name Chris. (he blogs here:
That's about it.

Magister said...

David Bentley Hart

Jeffrey S. said...

1) Greg Cochran;

2) Paul McCartney;

3) Marilynne Robinson;

4) Ed Feser;

5) Hayao Miyazaki

the outrigger said...

Christopher Alexander, architect
Julian Barbour, physicist
Peter Andrews, farmer. Possible. Certainly does cantankerous well.

Thanks for these posts on genius and personality.

Andrew S said...

Tarn Adams

AdamW said...

Andrew Wiles (Fermat) & John Conway ('Life', group theory), mathematicians.
(Wiles' 'Horizon' interview is particularly revealing - so humble.)
Nigel Kennedy, violinist.
(No towering intellect here, but his musicality is undeniable.)

Nathaniel said...

Linus Torvalds

Rampart said...

Dear Dr. Charlton,

Have read you for several years and admire your thinking.

Vladimir Putin, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Joseph A. said...

Difficult task -- I kept on dismissing possibilities, noting (and sometimes checking on the web) that so and so had already died. J.N. Findlay -- died in the 80s. Segovia -- 80s, again. Iris Murdoch -- scratch. Gadamer -- scratch. Met. Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh -- +. Madeleine L'Engle -- alas. Solzhenitsyn . . . sic transit gloria mundi.

My "surprise" nomination would be John Lasseter, the man largely behind the current golden age of animation. Yes, it's a relatively new medium, and/but Lasseter is its Vergil. He is a master storyteller.

Two professors who have opened important windows of understanding for me: Claude Polin and Eric Perl.

And academics who have significantly but indirectly influenced me: Peter Brown and Alasdair MacIntyre.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joseph A - I certainly regard the animated 'kids' movie as close to the greatest achievement of recent years - and if this guy Lasseter is really the main factor, then he deserves the accolade. I was surprised, and in a way unsurpried, to see that he attended Pepperdine University - whatever his current views, I think the kind of solid religious grounding he presumably got as a child (and which so few modern kids get) will have stood him in good stead creatively - relativism is toxic to genius (see Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment) because it erodes the intense motivation needed for the highest levels of achievement.

Joseph A. said...

I just read his Wiki entry. He has been married for 28 years (an eternity for someone in the entertainment industry at his level), and he and his wife have five sons. So, he passes the Charlton Test. I also note that among his listed influences, we find Frank Capra and Preston Sturges -- whom I greatly admire. I actually adore Capra! Who made more human, more moral, beautiful films than Capra? So, Lasseter's appreciation of him makes sense, given the abundance of humanity that we find in Lasseter's films. I like the old Disney classics, but they don't have the same narrative quality or depth as Pixar's (and Lasseter's) films. Moreover, I contend that the first seven minutes of Up rank among the best storytelling ever captured on film, animated or not. Lasseter is a genius. Also, the Pepperdine connection isn't surprising. Pixar's films often offer some profound suggestions about life. I find them covertly (or not covertly) traditionalist in many ways. His family is Christian. It would not surprise me if Lasseter himself has maintained the faith of his upbringing. He certainly has the sensibility.

HofJude said...

I think it important to say that there is certainly no genius at work today - with the possible exception of work in the sciences and mathematics of which I am unaware and incompetent to judge were I to be so (though I will say that the Nobels seem to be awarded for small-ball sort of work).
There are wonderful and rewarding writers, composers and artists - but they are minor, and more minor than the recently dead minor late 20th century figures were minor.
In 1984 or so, the wife of a very very good 18th-century scholar of English Literature at Princeton called Lawrence Lipking, now an old man, was overheard saying of her husband, "Larry has the greatest mind in the West since Erasmus."

HofJude said...

Though I will add that the best we have whose quality I can comprehend are Charles Murray and Alasdair MacIntyre.

David Balfour said...

@ Bruce - What are your thoughts about Chris Langan? I have stumpled upon this interview today and the claim that he is the worlds smartest theist. I presume you are familiar with his case. It interested me that he seems to envisage that logic alone can userp the need for faith. I am not convinced but, there again, my IQ is not around the 200 mark so perhaps that annuls my insights compared to his:

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I have come across him, and he is an interesting example of the High IQ HIgh Psychoticism type - or what Grady M Towers termed The Outsiders

Other than that I don't really have any particular opinion about his work.

Peter said...

Joe Hitashi, John Carmack, Gregory Perelman, Christopher Nolan, Shigeru Miyamoto.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Sowell, of course!