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Sociology Thread

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George183
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"ELIZABETH GWEN 27.4.70" in Chit-Chat.

Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #255 on: June 09, 2010, 10:18 PM »
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^^Nice and subtle George I like lol mark will approve Smile

I didn't want anybody to wonder where we'd gone.  Smile
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Aileen
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #256 on: June 11, 2010, 01:49 AM »
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Here's an essay on the concept of genius.

My eyes glazed over just looking at this.
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Buhweet
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #257 on: June 12, 2010, 08:02 PM »
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For the small group of sociologists on the site, I thought we should have a place for discussing social theory.

Here's an old Giddens essay to get the ball rolling. Ruth, George, your thoughts?

Given how little interest there is in sociology on this site, I have a feeling this thread will go down a storm. Rolling Eyes

I'm both impressed with the "idea" of this thread and confused on how it degenerated into a religious discussion. I studied Sociology and Social psychology (Industrial Sociology) The modern industial state, etc. My senior term paper was a study on what affect a person's religous belief supports the modern miltary/ industial complex. Yes, I was/am a Weberite.
I suppose at some point, someone will add something similar to Clydey's opening piece to get back on the Sociological theory aspect of this thread.
It's not easy admitting I might have something in common with Clydey!!! Or rather, he has something in common with me. Life will never be the same!!!
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #258 on: June 12, 2010, 08:18 PM »
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I'm both impressed with the "idea" of this thread and confused on how it degenerated into a religious discussion. I studied Sociology and Social psychology (Industrial Sociology) The modern industial state, etc. My senior term paper was a study on what affect a person's religous belief supports the modern miltary/ industial complex. Yes, I was/am a Weberite.
I suppose at some point, someone will add something similar to Clydey's opening piece to get back on the Sociological theory aspect of this thread.
It's not easy admitting I might have something in common with Clydey!!! Or rather, he has something in common with me. Life will never be the same!!!


 fainting

And, in declaring that you can speak the same language, will undoubtedly now have scared the pants off him !!  Smile
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Clydey
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #259 on: June 12, 2010, 08:20 PM »
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I'm both impressed with the "idea" of this thread and confused on how it degenerated into a religious discussion. I studied Sociology and Social psychology (Industrial Sociology) The modern industial state, etc. My senior term paper was a study on what affect a person's religous belief supports the modern miltary/ industial complex. Yes, I was/am a Weberite.
I suppose at some point, someone will add something similar to Clydey's opening piece to get back on the Sociological theory aspect of this thread.
It's not easy admitting I might have something in common with Clydey!!! Or rather, he has something in common with me. Life will never be the same!!!

I did add something else, but Aileen seemed confused by it, so I deleted it. I'll repost it in case you're interested, though. It's about the development of the concept of genius.

Quote
The Singular Genius of the Artist

The modern western notion of the “artist” is that of a detached, isolated genius whose works express a unique aesthetic vision (Tanner, 2003); however, this was not always the case. In fact, the concept of isolated artistic genius is a historical invention, first appearing in the throes of early modernity (Inglis and Hughson, 2005).

“The fundamentally new element in the Renaissance conception of art is the discovery of the concept of genius, and the idea that the work of art is the creation of an autocratic personality, that this personality transcends tradition, theory and rules, even the work itself, is richer and deeper than the work and impossible to express adequately within any objective form.” (Hauser, 1951, p.61)


This idea of genius as a gift of God was incompatible with the dominant discourse of the Middles Ages and its characteristic indifference towards intellectual originality and spontaneity. Homogeneity was actively encouraged and plagiarism deemed permissible, as imitation of the era’s masters was perceived to be the most efficient means of production (Hauser, 1951). Risking the wrath of Saussureans, one could even describe the period’s formulaic means of production as medieval kitsch, if such a concept can exist independently. There were no artists, as such. Rather, the creation of both functional and decorative items, along with other services, was the domain of artisans, who were the skilled manual workers of the time (Wolff, 1983). Further to this, artistic production was a communal process, dominated by the collaborative “spirit of the mason’s lodge and the guild workshop” (Hauser, 1951, p.48). The period of early modernity bore witness to the separation of the concepts of “artisan” and “artist”, with the modern idea of the artist as a highly gifted asocial visionary starting to emerge at this point, along with the now familiar stereotypical image of an isolated, starving and uncompromising figure of rare idiosyncratic genius (Wolff, 1983; Inglis and Hughson, 2005). There are various theories as to why this new concept of the artist became a part of the dominant discourse at this time.

Of particular importance to the development of the concept of the modern artist was the Quattrocento, a cultural and artistic movement in Italy that bridged the transition from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance (Hartt, 2006). Hauser (1951) suggests that the increased demand for works of art during this time led to the conceptual divergence of “artist” and “artisan”. In order to cope with the growing workload, factory-like organisations were created and a large number of assistants and handy-men were subsequently employed (Hauser, 1951). Throughout this period, the artists’ workshops introduced more individual teaching methods, leading to the greater independence of their assistants. One might say that the Quattrocento is to art what the Industrial Revolution is to technology, so profound was its historical impact. Indeed, its effects are still felt to this day (Hartt, 2006). The period produced such artistic luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello—the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were equally indebted to this movement (Hauser, 1951). The Quattrocento also served as an early sign of the individualism that would later come to prominence with the development of industrial capitalism (Hauser, 1951; Wolff, 1983). Hauser (1951) and Wolff (1983) claim that Michelangelo was the first artist in this sense and in “the claim independently to shape the whole work from the first stroke to the last and the inability to cooperate with pupils and assistants”. (Hauser, 1951, p.48); however, the veracity of that claim will be evaluated later. 

According to Zolberg (1983), another potential reason for the conceptual birth of the modern artist was the increasingly insecure nature of their position in the division of labour. The gradual decline of the institution of patronage meant that artists were, for all intents and purposes, self-employed. No longer commissioned to produce works by noble and ecclesiastical patrons, artists were forced to turn to the fickle art market, in which there were no guarantees that their wares would sell (Zolberg, 1983); therefore, the modern perception of the lonely, starving artist is likely connected to the relatively insecure conditions of employment fostered by modernity (Inglis and Hughson, 2005). Incidental to the evolving employment conditions was the newfound creative freedom of the Quattrocento artists, who were no longer bound by the will of their patrons. Having previously been intellectually and creatively stifled as a side-effect of patronage, artists were now compelled to engage their imagination (Inglis and Hughson, 2005). Hauser (1982) also argues that the early nineteenth-century group of thinkers that came to be known as the Romantics were central to the development of the concept of the artist as a unique individual genius. As a means of protesting the gloomy and banal nature of a world now governed by the search for profits, the Romantics developed the figure of the artistic genius as the hero who would inspire society to emerge from its state of moral purgatory.

As can be seen, there are a number of reasons for the emergence of the artist genius in light of modernity’s evolving conditions of social change; however, whether it is a substantive concept is another matter. The communal nature of artistic production in the Middle Ages has already been discussed, along with the implication that it ceased to be a collaborative process during the establishment of modernity. But while it may be true that the formal communal organisation of artistic work has disappeared, the claim of the modern artist “to shape the whole work from the first stroke to the last” is an erroneous one (Wolff, 1983). Becker (2008) makes the point that all artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of people, and often in large numbers.

“It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5:30 A.M.; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy. An old groom, whose business it was to call me, and to whom I paid £5 a year extra for the duty, allowed himself no mercy. During all those years at Waltham cross he was never once late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me. I do not know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to anyone else for the success I have had. By beginning at that hour I could complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast.” (Trollope, 1947 [1883], p.227)
The relevance of the above anecdote may not be immediately apparent, but it provides a simple example, albeit a slightly exaggerated one, of the kinds of details that are usually taken for granted when we think about what goes into artistic production. It is safe to say that an author’s butler or maid rarely makes the acknowledgements section, irrespective of how integral they are to the process of production. If one were to trace the life of any given piece of art, from conception to realisation to demonstration, they would see the various forms of cooperation that have gone into producing patterns of collective activity, defined by Howard Becker (2008) as an “art world” (p.1).


Becker (2008) believes that the study of art worlds provides us with a better understanding of the complexity of the cooperative networks through which art is produced, such as the way in which the groom in the earlier anecdote unconsciously contributed to the production of Trollope’s literary works. There are countless other contributions that go into any given artistic production, ranging from the minor to the major. Take the production of a typical studio film as an example. As the credits run at the start of the movie, “A Film by Martin Scorsese” flashes up on the screen. But just how much truth is there to that statement? Certainly, the film may have been inspired by Scorsese’s vision and he will have guided the filming process, but can credit for any artistic production ever by attributed to a single person? Here is a partial list of credits for Shutter Island, “Martin Scorsese’s most recent film”:

Martin Scorsese; Leonardo DiCaprio; Mark Ruffalo; Ben Kingsley; Emily Mortimer; Michelle Williams; Max Von Sydow; Patricia Clarkson; Jackie Haley; Laeta Kalogridis; Dennis Lehane; Chris Brigham; Brad Fischer; Amy Herman; Laeta Kalogridis; Arnold Messer; Gianni Nunnari; Louis Phillips; Joseph P. Reidy; Emma Tillinger; Ellen Lewis; Meghan Rafferty; Max Biscoe; Robert Guerra; Christina Ann Wilson; Sandy Powell; Kathryn Blondell; Alan D`Angerio; Christine Fennell; Sian Grigg; Teressa Hill; Aimee Macabeo; Elizabeth Martinelli; Bridget O'Neill. (IMDB, 2010)

The above list accounts for approximately 1/5th of the people who were directly involved in the production of Shutter Island. With that in mind, it is almost farcical to refer to it as “Martin Scorsese’s most recent film”, at least in the sense that it is solely the product of his toil and artistic vision. Moreover, the film credits merely acknowledge those directly involved in the production. What of the technological innovations that made possible the production of Shutter Island, or any film for that matter? Compiling an exhaustive list of everything, in its most literal sense, that had to occur for Shutter Island to be produced borders on the impossible. Tracing just the invention and evolution of cinematography is daunting in and of itself. The same applies to other art forms, such as music, writing, painting, and so on (Becker, 2008). Becker (2008) illustrates this point with his own example of the collective activity that goes into a musical production:

“For a symphony orchestra to give a concert, for instance, instruments must have been invented, manufactured, and maintained, a notation must have been devised and music composed using that notation, people must have learned to play the notated notes on the instruments, times and places for rehearsal must have been provided, ads for the concert must have been placed, publicity must have been arranged and tickets sold, and an audience capable of listening to and in some way understanding and responding to the performance must have been recruited” (p.2)


Following on from the last point of Becker’s quote, even when scrutinising all of the variables that go into artistic production, there is one variable that often remains neglected: the role of the audience. After all, art is typically produced for public consumption. How the artist’s audience responds and in turn influences production, both in the manufacturing of art and in the creative process, is routinely overlooked.

With this in mind, Roland Barthes (1977) has argued for the conceptual death of the author and the prevalent notion that the author/artist/creator is the sole origin and source of authentic meaning. 

“A text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. . . A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted. The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author.” (Barthes, 1977)

Although Barthes has a wider agenda, his words still apply to the narrower focus of this essay. He posits that the author (or artist genius, to keep things strictly in the correct context) is a myth created by society, just as society has created the human person more generally (Wolff, 1983). Further to that, the exaltation of the author is not merely a benign social construction, but also an obstacle to the proper understanding of art (Barthes, 1977). Barthes points out that the study of various art forms has been hindered by the fact that artists have too often stolen the figurative spotlight, causing us to lose sight of the bigger picture (Barthes, 1977). Put more simply, the study of literature has actually been a study of authors; art history has been viewed as the history of artists; and the history of music has been viewed as the history of musicians, and so on. The prohibitive focus on the artist means that other key factors are overlooked. To properly understand this criticism, one must go back to Saussurean linguistics and the notion that signs are determined by other signs. Applied here, art can only be understood in its wider context. The focus on the author, therefore, fails to consider the wider context in which art is produced, inhibiting our ability to truly understand it. It is for this reason that Barthes prescribes the death of the author and the birth of the reader as the source of meaning. However, Wolff (1983) argues that the author’s intentions are crucial to the meaning of art. How can one truly understand art if the intentions of the artist are entirely disregarded?

There is no disputing that modernity stimulated change and promoted individual creativity to a significant degree. When examined more closely, however, the circumstances of artistic production in the Middles Ages were not as different to those of today as one might think. Artists in the pre-modern period are looked upon now as having been severely constrained by political and financial pressures to paint or write in narrowly defined ways (Wolff, 1983); however, even modern artists are inhibited by the intangible forces of socialisation. It is impossible to isolate ourselves from the forces imposed on and by society, since everything we experience contributes to the constitution of our self-identity and informs our ideas (Giddens, 1991). The reflexive nature of society means that even our imagination can be viewed as the product of social, ideological, and biological collaboration. If Tracey Emin had been raised in Africa instead of England, what are the chances that she would have produced My Bed? Most likely slim to none. At the risk of getting bogged down in philosophy, the production of her art also required that her parents met each other, that her grandparents met each other, and that her great grandparents met each other, etc. ad nauseum. Indeed, following that line of thought to its logical conclusion would require an almost infinite regress into the past. As touched upon a little earlier, Anthony Giddens’ structuration theory can just as readily be applied to the notion of artistic genius as any other facet of everyday social life, since nothing can ever be produced in isolation, including art. The artist genius is a social construct devised and maintained not because of its factual basis, but because there is a kind of superficial truth to the concept. Our minds do not instinctively operate at such a profound level that we immediately recognise these more obscure logical inconsistencies. When one takes into consideration the numerous ways in which art can still be seen as a collaborative process, it becomes clear that the notion of singular artistic genius is not just meritless, but also an obstacle to our true understanding of art.

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Aileen
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #260 on: June 13, 2010, 02:17 AM »
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I did add something else, but Aileen seemed confused by it, so I deleted it. I'll repost it in case you're interested, though. It's about the development of the concept of genius.
Why on earth did you delete this just because of me?  Just because my brains sieze up at the sight of great wads of scholarly text doesn't mean that nobody else was going to respond, so I hope Buhweet does, although hopefully in more simplistic terms.  You know I'm no academic - just an intelligent, but not intellectual, person who happens to find sociology interesting, but at a much more basic level.
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Buhweet
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #261 on: June 13, 2010, 04:02 PM »
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I did add something else, but Aileen seemed confused by it, so I deleted it. I'll repost it in case you're interested, though. It's about the development of the concept of genius.

Good application! In your conclusion; I wouldn't say "meritless" because that is a subjective idea which changes over time. It is however, an obstacle to understanding.
If you follow Gidden's theory, you could apply it to anything and everything man has created, including most importantly, the concept of god and all the societal implications of organized religions. (A personel favorite of mine.) Moving beyond that; could it not apply to all things within humanity's perception whether it be human creation or environmental conditions as well? And, by extension, roughly follow along the lines of the Chaos theory?
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Daisy
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #262 on: June 13, 2010, 04:23 PM »
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Am thinking Buhweet .... "that ^ got the roosters out" lol
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Clydey
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #263 on: June 13, 2010, 06:01 PM »
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Good application! In your conclusion; I wouldn't say "meritless" because that is a subjective idea which changes over time. It is however, an obstacle to understanding.
If you follow Gidden's theory, you could apply it to anything and everything man has created, including most importantly, the concept of god and all the societal implications of organized religions. (A personel favorite of mine.) Moving beyond that; could it not apply to all things within humanity's perception whether it be human creation or environmental conditions as well? And, by extension, roughly follow along the lines of the Chaos theory?

It is meritless in the deeper sense. If you scrutinise the concept of genius, you can see that no single thing is responsible for its construction. For example, Einstein is at best only partially responsible for the work he produced. His ideas were not simply his own. He could only come up with his ideas because of circumstances created by other people. So in the deeper sense, there is no such thing as singular genius.

But like I said, there is a superficial truth to the concept. We don't instinctively think at so profound a level that we are able to spot the flaws in these concepts. It's not practical for us to think like that. If you tell me about an idea that you've come up with, I wouldn't sit here and think of everything that has occurred that has allowed you to come up with your idea. That wouldn't be practical. You would get sole credit for the idea and it would be considered, for lack of a better term, the product of your genius. That's what I mean when I say that there's a superficial truth to the concept of singular genius.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

And yes, you could apply the concept of reflexivity to all of these social constructions. That doesn't mean that they are all equally flawed, though. We're probably moving more into the realm of philosophy here, but that's fine.
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Buhweet
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #264 on: June 13, 2010, 07:33 PM »
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It is meritless in the deeper sense. If you scrutinise the concept of genius, you can see that no single thing is responsible for its construction. For example, Einstein is at best only partially responsible for the work he produced. His ideas were not simply his own. He could only come up with his ideas because of circumstances created by other people. So in the deeper sense, there is no such thing as singular genius.
Are you going on with your studies, I saw you were studying for your exam. At what level are you? Masters?
But like I said, there is a superficial truth to the concept. We don't instinctively think at so profound a level that we are able to spot the flaws in these concepts. It's not practical for us to think like that. If you tell me about an idea that you've come up with, I wouldn't sit here and think of everything that has occurred that has allowed you to come up with your idea. That wouldn't be practical. You would get sole credit for the idea and it would be considered, for lack of a better term, the product of your genius. That's what I mean when I say that there's a superficial truth to the concept of singular genius.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

And yes, you could apply the concept of reflexivity to all of these social constructions. That doesn't mean that they are all equally flawed, though. We're probably moving more into the realm of philosophy here, but that's fine.
I essentially agree with your premise of the superficiality of "truth" to this concept. There are plenty enough historical instances to prove your point.
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Clydey
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #265 on: June 13, 2010, 07:40 PM »
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Are you going on with your studies, I saw you were studying for your exam. At what level are you? Masters?

No, I haven't done my Masters yet. I've just finished my Honours degree, so I'll be going on to my Masters next. I just have to find somewhere that does a degree I'm interested in. I'm considering distance learning as an option, since I don't particularly fancy travelling into Glasgow every day for classes.

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Philip
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #266 on: June 13, 2010, 08:36 PM »
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It is meritless in the deeper sense. If you scrutinise the concept of genius, you can see that no single thing is responsible for its construction. For example, Einstein is at best only partially responsible for the work he produced. His ideas were not simply his own. He could only come up with his ideas because of circumstances created by other people. So in the deeper sense, there is no such thing as singular genius.

But like I said, there is a superficial truth to the concept. We don't instinctively think at so profound a level that we are able to spot the flaws in these concepts. It's not practical for us to think like that. If you tell me about an idea that you've come up with, I wouldn't sit here and think of everything that has occurred that has allowed you to come up with your idea. That wouldn't be practical. You would get sole credit for the idea and it would be considered, for lack of a better term, the product of your genius. That's what I mean when I say that there's a superficial truth to the concept of singular genius.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

And yes, you could apply the concept of reflexivity to all of these social constructions. That doesn't mean that they are all equally flawed, though. We're probably moving more into the realm of philosophy here, but that's fine.

Interesting as Einstein is one of my heroes with E=mc^2.  Let me  turn the question around slightly.  Give me a name or two of who you would define as a Genius.  Michelangelo ?  Aristotle ?  Pythagoras ?
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Clydey
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #267 on: June 13, 2010, 09:12 PM »
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Interesting as Einstein is one of my heroes with E=mc^2.  Let me  turn the question around slightly.  Give me a name or two of who you would define as a Genius.  Michelangelo ?  Aristotle ?  Pythagoras ?

It depends on what you mean. In the superficial sense, they are all geniuses. In the deeper sense, there is no such thing as singular genius.
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Philip
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #268 on: June 13, 2010, 09:34 PM »
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Thanks for the clarification.  I personally think they are all geniuses but it is of no importance to me how they are classified.  

One of my personal criteria is to classify them according to their contribution to society.  For example, in my own eyes, Thomas Edison with his invention of electricity which has hugely benefited mankind is a genius.  Ford with his invention of the motor car is another genius.  

Michelangelo Da vinci is one of the great geniuses as he had fantastic ideas that came before their time,  i.e. some of his inventions could not be built because the building block technologies were not yet available.
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Re: Sociology Thread « Reply #269 on: June 13, 2010, 10:14 PM »
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Da Vinci!!! Amazing mind and such brilliant artistry as well as understanding of anatomy yes
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