Are all geniuses prodigies? No, according to Malcolm Gladwell, in the New Yorker. Following an economist at the University of Chicago, David Galenson, he argues that there are two different paradigms;
Prodigies like Picasso, Galenson argues, rarely engage in … open-ended exploration. They tend to be “conceptual,” Galenson says, in the sense that they start with a clear idea of where they want to go, and then they execute it….
But late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental,”
Much in Western economic life favors the early bloomer and not the late. Academia is a good case. Start out a star and you are set for life; find yourself immense in the possibilities and unable to be highly productive at the beginning, and your career may end. Importantly, as the article points out, the late-bloomer needs mentors or some sort of support.
Is the possibility of this sort of difference of interest to feminists? At the very least, it raises some questions, one of which is whether men and women are equally distributed among the types. Of course, it is hard to tell how the distinctions would look if they were described in less vague language, but the second sounds much more like the way at least groups of women philosophers in my experience tend to approach philosophical problems.
And though the study seems focused on the arts, it may generalize to fields like philosophy. In which case we can also remind ourselves that an early start, which for fairly extraneous reasons is too often difficult for women, may get one a much better job and much better opportunies, it really need not indicate superior talent.
Well, we did know that. But a reminder is a good thing.