Debate as to validity
Is the praxeological reasoning behind Mises' view of the creative genius sound? I would argue it's questionable, for the following reasons:
If the genius receives neither mediate nor immediate gratification from his activity, why does he do it? Economic theory states that all human action is devoted to maximizing satisfaction, with time-preference creating a discounting effect that causes people to prefer, ceteris paribus, x utils of satisfaction now over x utils of satisfaction later. The fact that "his fellow men at best are unconcerned about it, more often even greet it with taunts, sneers, and persecution" does not preclude him from anticipating that in the future, some people will appreciate his finished work product.
This Mises quote can perhaps explain it pretty well: "If action is primarily directed toward the improvement of other people's conditions and is therefore commonly called altruistic, the uneasiness the actor wants to remove is his own present dissatisfaction with the expected state of other people's affairs in various periods of the future. In taking care of other people he aims at alleviating his own dissatisfaction. It is therefore not surprising that acting man often is intent upon prolonging the period of provision beyond the expected duration of his own life." Also, "It is not difficult to ensure that the genius who has completed his work shall be crowned with laurel; that his mortal remains shall be laid in a grave of honour and monuments erected to his memory." Geniuses are often aware of this possibility and it can help motivate them.
Mises states "His incentive is not the desire to bring about a result, but the act of producing it" and "What they create has no value to them as a product: they create for the sake of creation, not for the result." That sounds like a possible description of the immediate gratification of leisure. I suspect, though, that it is really the joy of labor, which includes eager anticipation of the work product and what it will cause. Mises' statement "Creating is for him agony and torment, a ceaseless excruciating struggle against internal and external obstacles; it consumes and crushes him" sounds like a description of the disutility of labor. Geniuses typically don't like to work; they are often the type who find mundane gruntwork in particular extremely tedious. They often have trouble focusing on tasks outside their field of interest and are always daydreaming about their ideas, rather than paying attention to their immediate surroundings. Many of the qualities commonly thought of as attention deficit disorder symptoms are characteristic of geniuses.
I believe that there is plenty of evidence that the genius does indeed value his work product. If he did not take joy in the result of his accomplishment, rather than just the act of accomplishing it, he would not bother to preserve his work product. He would, for example, produce a book and then not care whether it was published or burned. But we know that one genius, Mises himself, was very distraught about what happened to his creation — specifically, when the second edition of Human Action was poorly printed.
Is it really true that "For him there is not leisure, only intermissions of temporary sterility and frustration"? Perhaps the genius can sometimes feel that, after a period of accomplishment, he has "earned" a bit of leisure. Of course, he will always want to return to his work, and he will feel miserable and not enjoy his leisure if he is no longer making progress. And there may be periods when he is so focused on his work that he does not make time for leisure. But to say that for him there is no leisure may be a bit of an exaggeration. Nathan Larson 00:40, 9 July 2012 (MSD)