Does genius always leave us asking "how"? Not e.g. "why" like an eccentric creativity might.

So we don't ask of Marx "why" were you interested in Feurabach or a critical analysis of the economy, or sought to prove what he did, but "how" Marx was able to predict periodic crises or the collapse of liberalism. To be specific, I mean an exclamation about how difficult that was to achieve, rather than merely unlikely.

All I know about genius can be captured in the definition of the word, exceptional knowledge or creativity. And that Kant thought genius was inexplicable.

One correct answer to my question is that I am (trivially) right. But has any philosopher claimed anything like that, either about (great) philosophers, or artists: used the word "how" (by what means) and opposed it to eccentricity?

  • no this question is about philosophy in at least two ways
    – user34105
    Jul 31, 2018 at 11:52
  • 1
    To avoid being closed as to vague or broad, this question needs to be expanded. E.g. How, what? Why, what? In what way is it about philosophy? You might mention what research you've done and why it is unsatisfactory.
    – christo183
    Jul 31, 2018 at 13:44
  • @christo183 are you sure this is a bad question, i think they're trolling tbh. i am confused by your not understanding what "how" is. what prior research do i have to do to ask a question like this, i mean ffs, look at the rest of your site now
    – user34105
    Jul 31, 2018 at 13:54
  • i mean how the philosopher in question has qualia. i mean why the philosopher in question isn't torturing babies. really, you have to have some common sense to use the internet right?
    – user34105
    Jul 31, 2018 at 13:59
  • Remember this is a community with a 'culture'. If you want a question to be taken seriously, it should conform to certain acceptable norms. I find some of the comments @FrankHubeny leave to be particularly helpful in this regard. It also helps to think of your question as not something you want to know, but rather as a worthwhile topic, for research, you would like to introduce to the community.
    – christo183
    Jul 31, 2018 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


We are left asking ourselves "Why ?" when we didn't understand why something happened, in that case we might have not understood why they thought about that in a first time (1), why their assumptions implies their deduction (2), or why they decided to make such a painting (3), for example.

We are left asking ourselves "How ?" When we didn't understood how something happend, in that case we might have not understood how they came to that conclusion from their assumptions(4) or how they made such a spectacular painting(5)

So when we ask ourselves how, we admit that we didn't understood everything but we suspects that their is a rational thinking or a satisfying explaination behind (see examples (4) and (5)) while when we ask ourselves why we suspects that it's just plain insane, or eccentric as you say (cf examples (1) and (3) ) but there might remains a possibility where we just didn't understood as for the how case. (see example (2) )

TL;DR : I think we ask ourselves why when we suspects them to be insane/eccentric/wrong - but there's still a part of doubt that we didn't understand something - while we ask ourselves how when we suspects them to be right - but there's still a part of doubt that we got it right and they were wrong - so in my opinion it's a matter of weight on who we think is correct despite our misunderstanding.

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