Table of contents

Sherlock I.3

Sherlock Holmes confronts the predicament of man

In the beginning of this story everyone makes fun of Holmes’s ignorance, who does not know that the earth turns around the sun. In the end, it turns out that astronomical facts can be useful, to solve cases. This is one of those things called poetic justice. What does it mean, though? Holmes needs to know things useful to his chosen profession, detecting crimes. He is not particularly interested in preventing or committing crimes, however.

We know his famous love of aberrations – science is in certain ways more interested in aberrations than in the typical, because it is interested in change & power. It is not only psychopaths that attract attention, but all these things end up looking like puzzles. They may be fun to solve; the fear of death adds its own attractions; but the interesting thing really is acquiring power.

Power depends on knowing particular things, not general things. Such things can be called secrets. Exposing them may be called justice. The revolutions of the earth matter only in the sense in which man’s relation to the cosmos matters to understanding man. The focus of Holmes’s knowledge has to do with trust in scientific progress & it requires a shocking sacrifice, on the promise that eventually you know everything, because you need to know everything. You have no idea what you need to know to solve crime; you go with what works.

Meanwhile, Holmes learns that there is a correlative to the consultant detective – the consultant criminal. Injustice is far more private than justice, but they require the same knowledge about man. The privacy of injustice, especially in liberalism, gives criminals anonymity. The regime prepares people to be deceived. They’re all victims waiting for a criminal to find them useful. This makes it very difficult to enforce the laws.

The criminal seems to want to teach Holmes how he gets away with murder. He has him solve all sorts of cases, including apparently his first murder, which is also the first time Holmes had tried his hand at detecting. Maybe the criminal is more precocious… At any rate, Moriarty shows Holmes that science means you can get away with murder. An ugly lesson to teach, no doubt. Holmes only solves the cases because Moriarty points them out to him.

It is not clear what Holmes could do ever to catch Moriarty, who has necessarily more experience with crime than Holmes. Their first confrontation is a standstill, because neither fears the other enough. Holmes is not willing to kill Moriarty, & die with him. This seems to confirm what everyone fears. Should Holmes ever overestimate his ability, because of the nature of his interests, the consequences would be dire.