A great deal has been written on the development of genius focusing upon neurological structures, heredity and social conditioning. Here, I would like to add a concept to our understanding of the development of the human mind.
Dispositionism means that each individual exhibits a range of behaviours that are selectively reinforced and thence evolve into habitual responses and patterns of thought. Those initial behaviours are “determined” by elements of social conditioning, genetic factors and an element of chance. Some individuals with little talent are able to overcome this difficiency by a combination of great external stimulation and perhaps an amount of luck. Equally, those with great genetic potential, and outstanding environmental influences may fall down through chance occurrences.
Let us examine some examples. John Stuart Mill is best known as the one who brought Utilitarianism into everyday usage. Many who have learnt of Mill’s theories and ideas have overlooked his extraordinary upbringing. Quite simply, Mill received one of the most intensive and extensive educational and mental development programs that has ever been known.
John Stuart Mill thus provides an example of how powerful external stimulii may be in the development of a great mind. Would Mill have been successful in his path had his father not taken such an interest in his education? Nobody can really say with any degree of certainty. However, we can be sure that the foundation of intellectual development that placed Mill 25 years ahead of his contemporaries positioned him uniquely, and ensured that he would at the least be an outstandingly average individual.
In all we can see a variety of factors contribute to the development of a genius. It is difficult to say that this is really the way human beings operate in an experimental sense due to the difficulties in eliminating chance. However, this certainly provides a model for interpreting and understanding the development of great minds – and the failure to do so. While we can not predict with absolute certainty do to the intrinsic random nature of the chance variable, we can certainly improve the odds of nurturing great minds.