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Posts Tagged ‘The Maltese Falcon

“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.”

[Image above: source]

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


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.


That’s Entertainment!…

As one prepares to add to one’s Netflix queue, it’s helpful to have a little guidance.  There’s Rotten Tomatoes, of course; but as wonderful as it is, it requires one to ask after specific films.  And then there’s Netflix’s own near-neighbor matching algorithm  (“recommended for you”)… but sometimes there’s just no accounting for one’s neighbors’ taste.

Happily, the good folks at Vodkaster, the French cinephile site, have stepped into the breech– and delivered a gift that is, if not quite as momentous as the Statue of Liberty , nonetheless altogether nifty, “The 250 Best Films Map” (… as voted by IMDb users on the 19th of June, 2009; English version here).  A taste:

See the full map (and download it in various sizes/resolutions) here.

As we fire up the popcorn maker, we might celebrate two artistic anniversaries:  it was on this date in 1910 that the exquisite British comedy team, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, arrived in the U.S. (on tour with an English vaudeville troupe).  Then, 31 years to the day later, The Maltese Falcon opened.

The One-Sheet

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