Hacking and Genius

Midway through his essay Hacking addresses the issue of kinds of people and draws a distinction, informed by the work of John Stuart Mill, between real kinds as opposed to finite kinds. Whereas the mother of an autistic child might say ‘autism is who my son is, not just a characteristic’, a fatness of a fat man is simply a characteristic, it is not an essential definition. I wonder how this idea fits into his continued discussion about the concept of genius. Would a genius fit into the category of a real kind or a finite kind? Although the author does not answer this question I believe he would see genius as falling into the latter category, because his concept of genius seems to be an individual who does not fit the contextualized standards for intelligence, because genius is just that characteristic. It is the ability to think in ways which define conventional conceptions of intelligence; it is the ability to find truth by looking in the very opposite direction than is the convention in society. It is an eccentric defiance which points the majority towards the idea that they have all been looking in the wrong place for answers. So the existence of genius is dependent and defined vis-à-vis the contextual standards of a particular society. A genius, in the romantic sense which Hacking proposes, is truly a ‘made up person’.

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