Madness & Genius Go Hand-In-Hand?

This study–

suggests that madness is an essential component of genius.

Do you believe that this is true?

In the intrests of Full Disclosure I admit that:
[li]I am as self-evidently nutty as half of you think I am, and[/li][/ul]

And that the Hamster ate the other half of my post.

Oh well! The above will do nicely.

These restrospective “diagnoses” seem sketchy. But there was a neuroimaging study reported last year that discovered that in creative people, the locus coeruleus was less inhibited. Similar to those diagnosed with certain mental illnesses. The book Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament seems relevant reading.

I’ve known lots of artists who don’t match that profile at all - they’re more like carpenters in temperament, productive and peaceful, not at all flamboyant or prone to outbursts (at least not in public). But perhaps none of them qualified as “geniuses”.

Outbursts? Mania does not have to find expression publicly.

Well, anecdotally speaking, I am a genius and quite mad.

“Helmholtz’ friend told someone that he was either a madman or a genius and to see if they could figure out which.”

– semiquoted from Woody Allen.

Unfortunately, you can be mad without being a genius, too.

I feel comfortable dismissing it as bullshit which persists because of overly romanticized notions of both madness and genius and an appeal to ignorance (“you can’t undertand the crazy guy and you can’t understand the smart guy, so they must be talking about the same thing!”)
And I’m a sane genius.

Er, not to nitpick but the article was not about bipolar disorder at all. Did you three who mention it read the article? And also, to the OP, Asperger’s Syndrome is not a mental illness and e.g. not “madness.” Okay, enough semantics. I think this is just another way for people to pigeonhole and label what they don’t understand. It’s a way for people with inferiority complexes about their intelligence or creativity to look at other people and say “See, that physicist/artist/whatever isn’t superior* to me! He’s just some idiot savant with a mental disorder!” I also feel that it degrades the human species to “compartmentalize” genius in a diagnostic category. It’s like saying “normal” people (whatever the hell that means) can’t accomplish great things, that it’s only through a neurological fluke that we can rise above barbarism. What a defeatist attitude.

*Not that I’m saying geniuses are superior; I believe that a “genius” is just someone who managed to tap into their best talent and have the time to perfect it within the space of their lifetime, which is a difficult task to manage. If we could all live five hundred years with the type of brain and learning curve we have now, we’d all be geniuses. That’s my theory, anyway.

Did you read my first post?

Yes, and that was why I was asking if you had read the article. Manic depression and Asperger’s Syndrome are totally different things, and since the OP referenced AS specifically (I think?), it seemed like a non-sequitur to post a link to a book about bipolar disorder.

I remember reading a book called The Cerebral Symphony by William Calvin which discussed something that may be of interest here.

The author was discussing some research into dreams which found that, apparently, the bizarre juxtapositions of images that we experience during sleep are the normal output of the subconscious mind. During the waking hours, there’s a filtering mechanism in place which evaluates each juxtaposition and only lets the good ones enter conscious thought.

I think that that filter may be a mechanism for the similarity between genius and madness. A large part of genius is being able to think of things that no one else has thought of before. Having a filter that’s very good at spotting that sort of diamond in the crap that the subconscious spews would definitely help that. If it’s too permissive, though, you get a bunch of random crap coming through, and that way lies madness. If the filter is not permissive enough, you see a lack of creativity.

Of course, I did. Which is why I started with

and continued with

(emphasis added)

since the great debate is on Madness and Genius. Nevermind that the OP picked a poor mismatched finding to kick off the thread.

I think there’s a connection; it may be quite tenuous, but I think brilliance sometimes requires a departure from the conventional that might at first appear insane, however, I believe individuals can train themselves to investigate such departures, so I’m not going to argue for any connection, if it exists, being necessarily innate.