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Posts Tagged ‘Father Brown

“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic”*…

Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate has issued proceedings, complaining that Enola Holmes,  a recently released film about Sherlock Holmes’ sister, portrays the great detective as too emotional.

Sherlock Holmes was famously suspicious of emotions. “‘[L]ove is an emotional thing,’ he icily observed, ‘and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things’.”  “I am a brain’, he told Watson. ‘The rest of me is a mere appendix’.”

I can imagine that many professional scientists and philosophers would feel affronted if they were accused of being emotional animals. Holmes is a model for them. He’s rigorous, empirical, and relies on induction.

But here’s the thing. He’s not actually very good. Mere brains might be good at anticipating the behaviour of mere brains, but they’re not good for much else. In particular Holmes is not a patch on his rival, Chesterton’s Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest. Gramsci writes that Brown “totally defeats Sherlock Holmes, makes him look like a pretentious little boy, shows up his narrowness and pettiness.Brown is faster, more efficient, and, for the criminal, deadlier. This is because, not despite, his use of his emotions.

In science it is rather more important to find out the right answer than to identify an answer that will fit one’s currently ruling paradigm. In moral philosophy it is rather more important to find the morally correct course than to identify one that doesn’t outrage the zeitgeist. Father Brown can help. Sherlock Holmes can’t.

Lessons for Philosophers and Scientists from Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown

For an example, see “Peirce on Abduction.”

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* G.K. Chesterton, The Innocence of Father Brown

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As we get in touch with our feelings, we might spare a thought for Humphrey DeForest Bogart; he died on this date in 1957. An actor whose career began in the theater, his motion picture roles made him a cultural icon; in 1999, the American Film Institute selected Bogart as the greatest male star of classic American cinema. While there can certainly be legitimate debate as to his most memorable role, his turns as a detective (Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon; Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep) are certainly among the contenders.

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The Fighting Phalanges!…

Finger wrestling has been used in the Alps as a method of resolving disputes since the 17th century.  Now, dueling with digits has become a sport.

Two contestants sit facing each other across a large table, with their fingers threaded into a strong strap. On a signal from the referee, the contest begins, and the competitors pull as hard as they can.  The winner is the competitor who successfully pulls their opponent across the table, using just their finger.

In Bavaria, the home of finger wrestling, it’s serious business.  Competitors train their fingers for the intense strain (and pain) of competition, by squeezing tennis balls, holding their body weight on their competitive finger, and doing one-finger press-ups…  While wrestlers are free to use any finger they wish, the finger of choice is, of course, the middle finger.

Read more about finger wrestling, and see video of the recently-completed 35th Annual Finger Wrestling Championship, at The Sun.

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As we flex our phalanges, we might send prodigious birthday greeting to G.K. Chesterton; he was born on this date in 1874.  The author of 80 books, several hundred poems, over 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays, he was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic theologian and apologist, debater, and mystery writer. Chesterton was a columnist for the Daily News, the Illustrated London News, and his own paper, G. K.’s Weekly, and wrote articles for the Encyclopædia Britannica.  Chesterton created the priest-detective Father Brown, who appeared in a series of short stories, and had a huge influence on the development of the mystery genre; his best-known novel is probably The Man Who Was Thursday.

Chesterton’s faith, which he defended in print and speeches, brought him into conflict with the most famous atheist of the time, George Bernard Shaw, who said (on the death of his “friendly enemy”), “he was a man of colossal genius.”

George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, and G. K. Chesterton

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Written by LW

May 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

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