Whodunnit? Philosophy, Logic and the Great Detectives

Posted on September 17, 2006


A recent discussion of logic with Nick Joll and a summer mis-spent nose-deep in classic detective novels had provided the inspiration for a new project. After re-reading Holmes and getting heavily into the Poirot (not to mention the more subdued Father Brown) it occurs to me that there hasn’t really been a thorough investigation of the different types of logic used by different detectives in different cases. Holmes,for example, is resolutely empirical and fallibilistic in his approach, and relies upon attention to detail in observation prior to any form of deduction that might be called logical. Poirot, on the other hand, relies on moral psychology and the use of the ‘little grey cells’ in abstract rumination.

This is a rather blunt distinction, but a starting point. Preliminary searches suggest that there isn’t anything much out there at the moment and I could do with brushing up on formal logic. Maybe it’s time to brush off the syllogism and see if it will hang together.

Sherlock Holmes

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