By Michael Araki

Recent TED talks and books like "Range" and "The Polymath" generated great popular interest in the concept of polymathy. However, polymathy is still ill-defined in academia. Here, I propose a more systematic typology, based on the literature review carried out by Araki (2015; 2018).

Polymathy is divided into two major categories: passive polymathy and creative polymathy.

Passive polymathy refers to the consumption of extant knowledge (Burke, 2010) whereas creative polymathy involves the generation of original contributions via cross-pollination or multidisciplinary syntheses. Passive polymathy is further divided into three types: Omni genere polymathy is the Renaissance polymathy that spans every genre of knowledge. Philosophical polymathy is the devotion to the pursuit of wide-ranging (but not all-encompassing) knowledge. Experiential polymathy is the acquisition of life-skills and meaningful experiences in a variety of forms and domains.

Creative polymathy is further divided into four types: Avocational polymathy is the active engagement in multiple interests to the point of mixing vocations and avocations in a synergistic whole. Pro-c polymathy is the generation of creative products at the Pro-c level involving cross-pollination and multidisciplinary insights. Big-C polymathy is like Pro-c polymathy but involves highly eminent creations. Finally, Triarchic polymathy combines Big-C in one domain with Pro-c in at least two more domains.

Attachment: Typology_of_Polymathy.png (33.9 KB)


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Michael Araki



Published: 22 Jun, 2019

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