Table of contents

Elementary I.1

Some notes on how the modern science of nature helps justice

Watson, formerly a doctor, seeks the eccentric Sherlock to be his sobriety companion – his conscience, or the conscientious part thereof. Watson is businesslike about this relationship. Holmes reacts by introducing her to policemen as his valet, suggesting inequality, servitude. She acts as if she is morally superior to Holmes. How else could she supervise him, keep him sober? Playing guardian angel requires authority. Is Watson really incorruptible? Anyway, Sherlock is not a pious man.

Watson finds Sherlock watching several TVs, apparently training his memory. The more useless the stuff he watches, the better; throwaway shows serve better than metaphysical treatises, requiring no thinking, nor do they offer Sherlock puzzles that may go beyond his abilities, certainly his interests. Sherlock immediately shows how dangerous his memory is: It has helped his acting ability, such that he half-seduces Watson with sentimental professions of love.

Sherlock is apparently learning human psychology, not only exercising his memory. This makes him seem quite cruel, quite inhuman. He deceives her – which may be a practical joke – & humiliates her by letting her know. This suggests his superiority includes or causes his mysteriousness. He heads off her later psychological inquiries: He is a puzzle she might not be able to solve. The first criminal he catches is a shrink who plotted to make a crazy man murderous to have his wife killed, whom he persuaded to change her look to match the man’s obsession, while disguising the murder as a home robbery.

The story ends with another display of his strange powers. Watson is watching the end of a baseball game, America’s favorite pastime. Sherlock is impatient. If she really wants to know, he can tell her. His prediction & explanation seem sound. She immediately suspects deception. He merely says it is statistics. He appears to look at human beings & things as mathematical problems. His solutions ignore psychology. His puzzle-solving mind might explain human problems by explaining away humanity.

Watson is shocked & humiliated. She is defending her ignorance & the human belief in freedom of choice. Causal explanations reveal or impose a necessity, a law. This dissolves choice, removes it. Why play the game, if the result is accurately predictable, if victory or defeat is inescapable? Why act, if your actions are predetermined?

Human beings resist this rational, causal thinking. Watson’s outrage & disbelief suggest the immediate human reaction to prophecy is a refusal to believe, enact, & obey. If one cannot be free in acting, refusing to act is freedom. This refusal defends democratic freedom. Could Sherlock tell New Yorkers how to live their lives by predicting their future? Could he be a king or prophet? Could he educate NYC like he does Watson?

A version of Sherlock Holmes to flatter the hipsters