A RETURN TO SHERLOCK HOLMES
AUTHOR: ENRIQUE MACIA
My name Is Enrique Macia Lalinde, I am 28 years old, from Medellín, Colombia. I´m a psychologist and passionate about reading. I have been a Sherlockian since I was like 8 years old. I had a book in my home "The adventures of Sherlock Holmes" with drawings that immediately became my favorite book, unfortunately with the years I lost the book but not my passion for reading Sherlock Holmes. During my teenage years, my uncle and my grandfather (both very wise and intelligent men) , taught me to think critically and solve problems with logic, using my brain. They always said to do not cheat in anything, so they are for me like the ideal of a true gentleman. My uncle lend me detective PC games, and Sherlock Holmes books so my passion for critical thinking, deductive skills and logic increased. Then I read all the canon, get all pc games I could (The serrated Scalpel, The awakened, Sherlock Holmes versus Arséne Lupin, Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper, The testament of Sherlock Holmes ... actually I´m waiting crimes and punishments to be released) and started to watch tv series and movies (Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller , Robert Downey Jr).
I started to get all books I can about Sherlock Holmes and his science and I´m continuously trying to learn about anything that catch my attention writing all in notebooks to keep my own record of data. My favourite Holmes actor in movies is Basil Rathbone, and in tv series there is a tie between Jeremy Brett (the most accurate to the canon) and Benedict Cumberbatch (great adaptation). As last but not least one of my favorite characters of Sherlock Holmes is his older brother, Mycroft, who I think deserved more participation in the canon.
A RETURN TO SHERLOCK HOLMES
"In the era of information, ignorance is a choice". That´s today’s motto when complicated devices that allow us save time (powerful calculators, tablets, personal computers, Internet, and other machines and data bases) have replaced books, libraries and unfortunately, in some cases, critical thinking. When you search for information you have to deploy a series of abilities to access it, and that means you have to be active not only with your mind but with your body and soul. With search engines you don't have to take a lot of time and work to get the data you want and that´s great if you know how to use these tools to help you in your work, it saves time and optimizes results and findings. But the "dark side" of these improvements is the mental laziness, when all the answers and possible data are only limited to Google, or Internet. That´s why I think is important to return to Sherlock Holmes, using our brain to think, to connect information, to solve (and avoid) problems, analyze, study our environment, contextualize information and data, read newspapers and magazines critically, rescue the importance and value of details, filter information, OBSERVE (not just see...) and most important: propose alternatives to daily problems that most people assume as "dead ends".
Author: Enrique Macia Lalinde - Date: 11-05-2014
That´s why Sherlock Holmes’s methods are basic information to rescue our ability to think and get data from our environment.
Deduction: Rules of deduction
• "Don´t just see, Observe": Observation is capital in Sherlock Holmes's daily life and work, is a key element in the canon. The first source of information from our environment is detected by our sensorial system, but we discard a lot of information because we judge it as irrelevant as we live in a hurry for answers. If we know what to seek we will notice it immediately. Observation implies connect what we see with other data and build hypothesis that must be confronted with more data to achieve a conclusion. Always remember that reality and people are like open books, you just have to read the implicit and explicit messages to understand what´s going on. Always observe instead of see and listen carefully (active listening).
• "Is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence": Sherlock Holmes hates to guess. He always searches for all the evidence to solve a problem or to conclude something. He never shares his conclusions unless he has all the facts. When you don't have enough information about something don´t try to build an approximation of the truth because all you will achieve is build a very credible lie, or fix facts with your version of what you think, like forcing a jigsaw puzzle (worried more for adjusting pieces by the shape than revealing the picture).
• "It is of the first importance not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning": Is impossible to be absolutely neutral in our approximation to reality, but when we are facing a problem we have to reduce to the minimum the interference of our emotions. That have a simple explanation. When we face someone that we care or when the situation has a particular relation with us and involve our feelings , these interfere with our ability to think critically. In that case we don´t want to hurt feelings or lose someone's friendship, and our objectivity becomes compromised more than usual getting difficult to observe and analyze what we don´t want to see (we judge that we are risking too much). When we are reasoning we have to focus on that, feelings will interfere in our ability to observe and draw conclusions because we are risking our tranquility and the most human part of us. That´s why, maybe, Sherlock Holmes avoids anything that involves feelings and deep relations. He was aware that feelings are powerful weapons and can interfere when there are interest between parties (just check out some cases of Holmes to be aware of this). Feelings can be manipulated to induce certain effects in the people and to distort reality.
This doesn't mean that you have to become a thinking machine. It means that you have to focus on what you are doing and understand that there is a place and time for everything.
• "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth": Perhaps one of the most famous Sherlock Holmes quote from "The sign of the four" and is a key element to deduce correctly. When you are analyzing something you discard useless information, and with every new data, with every connection between all information you are reducing the problem to its true form. Once you discard anything that interfere with the problem, you got the truth. Just remember cases like "Silver Blaze" "The creeping man" and how Holmes solves the mystery. You have to deplete every possible solution and alternative. In that way you limit the problem to its true form.
• "Detective Work is an infinite capacity for taking pains": Detective work is linked to every activity that you want. If you want to success in something using "detective skills" will improve the chance to achieve goals and objectives. Remember, every task requires a high amount of energy, hard work, dedication and an incredible ability to resist frustration. Assuming each task by its particularity allows you to understand certain elements that other people can´t understand because they do their task with mechanical effectiveness. Using your brain instead of just doing things can be painful (because is more difficult than just fulfill a requirement) but the reward is infinitely better.
• "There is no branch of detective science which is so important and so must neglected as the art of tracing footsteps": Why this could be important right now? well, maybe tracing real footsteps is of no practical use in real life now, but remember: Footsteps guide us to someone's, and to something. "In writing, write means "engrave", "mark", leave a print over a surface" and this allows to follow someone perception of life, like a footstep.
When you are facing a problem or looking for something, you have to follow the right clues and it includes follow other ideas, work, investigations, conclusions that act like footsteps for those who follow the road to knowledge. For example in oral and written language there exist rules and codes that you have to learn and follow if you want to understand a message.
Just remember to look closely and carefully those "footsteps". Not everything leads to your goal and "footsteps" could be treacherous. Be wise and avoid wasting your time following dead ends. Remember "Oh, how simple it would all have been had I been here before they came like a herd of buffalo and wallowed all over it." (Boscombe Valley Mystery, pg. 50).
• "Never guess. It´s a shocking habit- Destructive to the logical faculty": If you don´t have enough information avoid precipitate into conclusions: They will be wrong. Remember other important rules like "Is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence" and "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". Guessing is for games , not for logical thinking.
• "Never make exceptions, an exception disproves the rule": I´m not really agree with this one, or at least, don´t take it too seriously, you don´t have to be so rigid. Sometimes it is wise to make an exception. Remember we are humans and humans make mistakes, sometimes you have to break the rules. If you keep doing things always in the same way you will achieve the same results. Remember what Albert Einstein said: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Just avoid the temptation of think that you know everything because when it happen,
mistakes happens. If you are exigent, rigorous (with your work and method), open minded and flexible you can reduce the chance of mistake occurrence. Just analyze the context of your problem and you will find if you have do or not an exception. Think, do not only follow rules.
• "Singularity is almost invariably a clue": My favorite one. Singularity is like a personal signing of people's actions. Each text, idea, the way people behave, have particular characteristics that allow you recognize certain way of thinking, and allow you identify patterns that make easy the way you approach a problem or situation. If you are aware of the singularity of these you can trace the source easily and limit the problem to the essential avoiding most of external influence. It was the singularity of Moriarty crimes that allow Sherlock Holmes track him during all the canon and beat him. Try to connect this item with the previous one.
• "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact": Remember "not all that glitters is gold". There´s a lot hidden in an obvious fact. Just analyze carefully all data in context with other information, in that way you can figure out things that other people just pass by. When you read about something do not trust it at once, is good to doubt until you have all the information that confirm the one you have (contrast data is a good exercise). A lot of Holmes cases were at the beginning obvious to Scotland Yard but when Holmes took the cases he was aware of details and information from the news, police reports, past newspapers, the encyclopedia Britannica and personal notes that allow him connect different events and detect a pattern that allow him solve the mystery.
• "Scientific use of the imagination. Balance probabilities and choose the most likely": Holmes never shared his hypothesis unless he had a good reason to do it. He always tried to use all the data recollected and build possible alternatives, trying to find the most possible solution to a problem or mystery. Using your imagination to connect information, to manipulate an object, to interact with the environment, searching for alternatives and confronting ideas and hypothesis is a invaluable tool for the critical thinker.
• "One should always look for a possible alternative, and provide against it". Prove every hypothesis, idea and alternative to evaluate the truth of it. When you have an hypothesis you have to balance which facts are against it and which ones are supporting it. When you have enough data and information about something you can draw conclusions. Is a good way to find the truth value of an idea. Remember that in some cases, more than usual, we are dealing not with an irrefutable truth but with truth degrees (fuzzy logic).
• "Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.": Dr. Watson was not only the friend of Sherlock Holmes. He was the counterpart that allows Holmes share information about a case or a mystery and discuss it. When you share your findings with another person you can detect possible mistakes, new points of view, alternatives, and missing points. Is a good exercise to argue and find a solution to something complicated.
Sherlock Holmes and his method allow us assume a critical position and think carefully about the information that we receive each day allowing to determine which information is irrelevant, deceptive, incomplete, biased or manipulated by particular interests. He shows us that we are not sheeps in a herd that have to believe everything just because it is obvious or popular. Sherlock Holmes, the symbol of hope, taught us that we can empower ourselves and be part of the constructive side of the society. All we need is to think for ourselves. Using our brain free our body mind and souls and it allows us to continue walking in the road of knowledge instead of the road of useless information. Take the risk of thinking, look beyond the obvious, and let the truth emerge.
Remember: "Omne ignotum pro magnifico ". (The red headed league)
We are very grateful to Mr. Enrique Macia, who is our regular visitor.
He honored our site with an excellent article.
www.philosophersguild.com/Sherlock-Holmes-Notebook.html (back of the notebook: Rules of deduction)
Foglia, Pedro José, Grafología General: introducción al conocimiento de la grafología, volumen 1,paginas 1-30.
Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories
Sherlock Holmes illustrators
How to think like Sherlock Holmes