Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Creating Minds by Dr. Howard Gardner

Creating Minds an Anatomy of Creativity Seen through the Lives of Freud, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham and Gandhi by Dr. Howard Gardner delves into the personal lives of some of the world’s greatest geniuses and their chaotic development into full productivity.  Dr. Howard Gardner is a developmental psychologist and Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard. He is best known for his ground breaking work on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences indicates that people have different processes for learning and developing. Schools often rely on only a few methods leaving many geniuses out of the academic arena. These arenas of learning are in the linguistic, logic-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.  At present he is also considering an additional intelligence called existential intelligence which is the “consideration of big questions”. 

Within the book he looks deeply into the lives of seven creative geniuses in order to come to some conclusions. His review includes Picasso’s visual-spatial intelligence and the transcended interpretive frames of reference that he uses to change human perception of issues. He argues that each person has taken a Faustian bargain whereby they have put some aspects of their lives on hold as they went upon their personal missions that have led to profound breakthroughs. 

Each person has a set of tensions and asynchronous in development that when are not overwhelming lead the creative mind and new perceptions of life. Creators come from financially sound, but not necessarily wealthy families, and have a touch of estrangement from biological members. They hold certain values as important and work within fields a decade or more before making a major breakthrough. As they age their creative works become less even though their followership rises. 

The creative genius has certain intellectual strengths as they relate to the eight intelligence possibilities. Many of these geniuses were late bloomers who started their callings in their late twenties and thirties. Only a few were known as prodigies and this is based upon the support of their family and early recognition of skills. They are self-confident individuals who often self-promote and can have difficulties with others who are not considered as intelligent. 

Many geniuses came from homes where strictness and excellence were required. Yet when they gained enough skills the genius rebelled against their family and loosened the noose of control. They worked in areas of fields others have either discarded or completely didn’t understand. They seek to create their own domain in their chosen fields.  They were productive each day and worked on their craft or other complementary crafts to master skills. They were involved in each of the five distinct activities:

  • 1.)    Solving a particular problem.
  • 2.)    Putting forth a general conceptual scheme.
  • 3.)    Creating a product.
  • 4.)    A stylized performance
  • 5.)    A performance for high stakes

Each genius works within a triangle of creativity. This triangle includes the domain, the field and the individual. The domain is the knowledge, the field is the audience, and the individual is the creative person. They balance and move through these fields in different ways in order to find their creative breakthrough. It is the field that must accept that breakthrough as important. 

If you are seeking a book that discussed the nature of genius and the overall development of major scientific and artistic breakthroughs this is likely to be the one for you. You will find that intelligence mixed with the environment creates in part the genius. The book doesn’t state this but each of these individuals seem to have developed in times of international conflict as related to the world wars and other societal rubs.  Perhaps this is a background factor whereby society feels pressure to change and adapt and the genius is more capable emotionally, psychologically, and biologically to head the call. Perhaps it is a call to greatness?

Gardner, H. (2011). Creating Minds an Anatomy of Creativity Seen through the Lives of Freud, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham and Gandhi. New York: Basic Books.

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