Another problem with genius
26 August 2009 Leave a comment
Did Hitler’s idea of himself as a creative genius contribute to his rise as a genocidal dictator? Historian Birgit Schwartz seems to think so:
In my opinion, people have underestimated the notion that Hitler considered himself an artist, in fact, an artistic genius, and that much can be deduced from this self-image, this overheated artist’s ego. However, this has hardly played a role in the research to date. . . Hitler’s deluded view of himself as a genius is based on the confused system of thought emerging in the late 19th century, which centered on the idea that a genius — a strong personality who outshone everything else — could do anything he pleased. . . You mustn’t forget that the concept we have today of a genius is so much more harmless than it was back then. We define a genius on the basis of his talent. At the time, talent was not the main focus. A genius had to have a strong personality. He was a larger-than-life talent who was permitted to do anything, including evil things.