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Sherlock Holmes, an Objectivist?

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I tried searching for threads related to this, but found none.

See, I've just stumbled upon Objectivism after I discovered my aunt's copy of Fountainhead. Now I'm trying to explore the process of learning this philosophy, and the possibility of abiding it. I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and found that in a way, he might be embracing this philosophy, and even though Objectivism was yet to be brought up in in his time, we could say that Holmes is unconsciously embracing it.

So, what do you guys say? If we think about, is he an Objectivist? I mean he values reason, he respects innovation and technology, he pursues crime solving because he finds personal contentment doing it, etc.

Correct if I'm mistaken in a couple of points. Thank you.

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Welcome - I still feel like a newbie to Objectivism too. Welcome to the best ride of your life.

I think that insofar as Holmes is holding strictly to reason, then yes, he is being objective. He certainly holds himself to reason far more than anyone around him, people who are ready to attribute crimes to spirits and innocent men. I loved how, in the recent movie, everyone else was convinced of magical forces at work, but his strict adherence to reality led him to the real cause.

I wouldn't say that he is uniformly rational though. One of Holmes's flaws is that he lacks purpose unless he has a crime to solve, and in those times of boredom he indulges in his cocaine addiction. That is not in his long-term self-interest!

But despite this flaw, he feels most alive when he is using his mind to solve a case.

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Welcome - I still feel like a newbie to Objectivism too. Welcome to the best ride of your life.

I think that insofar as Holmes is holding strictly to reason, then yes, he is being objective. He certainly holds himself to reason far more than anyone around him, people who are ready to attribute crimes to spirits and innocent men. I loved how, in the recent movie, everyone else was convinced of magical forces at work, but his strict adherence to reality led him to the real cause.

I wouldn't say that he is uniformly rational though. One of Holmes's flaws is that he lacks purpose unless he has a crime to solve, and in those times of boredom he indulges in his cocaine addiction. That is not in his long-term self-interest!

But despite this flaw, he feels most alive when he is using his mind to solve a case.

Holmes quit his cocaine habit after the second the "Sign of Four" with the help of Doctor Watson.

Edited by Rearden_Steel

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What I find so fascinating is that the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was very different from the analytical and rational Holmes and the down-to-earth, common-sense doctor Watson (although I think that Watson was modelled after Doyle himself, who also was a physician), he was an enthusiastic believer in spiritism and other "paranormal phenomena" and even thought that the very obviously fake photos of the Cottingly fairies were real. Nothing could be more removed from the rational world of Holmes and Watson. On the other hand, there is his series of SF books with Professor Challenger. The first books, like "The Lost World" are still a nice read, but "The Land of Mist" is an embarrassing read, with its defense of spiritism, the once so fierce Challenger swallows it hook, line and sinker. But nothing of that can be found in the Holmes stories. (IIRC there is a reference in one of the stories to some spiritual explanation, which is rejected however).

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I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and found that in a way, he might be embracing this philosophy, and even though Objectivism was yet to be brought up in in his time, we could say that Holmes is unconsciously embracing it.

So, what do you guys say? If we think about, is he an Objectivist? I mean he values reason, he respects innovation and technology, he pursues crime solving because he finds personal contentment doing it, etc.

No. Objectivism (or rather, Ayn Rand) did not invent logic or objectivity. Holmes can be logical and objective without being an Objectivist. He can even be said to be virtuous by the standard of Objectivism. Holmes cannot be an Objectivist without knowing what Objectivism is, and it didn't exist then. In general, being any kind of an "-ist" requires knowledge and intent.

Your use of "unconsciously" is incorrect. He can act virtuously without knowledge of Objectivism but neither Holmes not anyone else can act "unconsciously". To be unconscious is to be knocked out.

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What I find so fascinating is that the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was very different from the analytical and rational Holmes and the down-to-earth, common-sense doctor Watson (although I think that Watson was modelled after Doyle himself, who also was a physician), he was an enthusiastic believer in spiritism and other "paranormal phenomena" and even thought that the very obviously fake photos of the Cottingly fairies were real. Nothing could be more removed from the rational world of Holmes and Watson. On the other hand, there is his series of SF books with Professor Challenger. The first books, like "The Lost World" are still a nice read, but "The Land of Mist" is an embarrassing read, with its defense of spiritism, the once so fierce Challenger swallows it hook, line and sinker. But nothing of that can be found in the Holmes stories. (IIRC there is a reference in one of the stories to some spiritual explanation, which is rejected however).

His unfortunate zeal for spiritualism came to him late in life. Within a few short years he lost his wife, brother, two brothers in law and his beloved nephew. He sank deep into depression at the start of the twentieth century. Sadly I think he began to lose his sanity...as all spiritualist have.

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Holmes quit his cocaine habit after the second the "Sign of Four" with the help of Doctor Watson.

Drug addiction being what it is, I have my doubts, and so evidently did Watson, who said in "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter" that Holmes' habit was "not dead but merely sleeping." Holmes also was given to depression and moodiness.

However, I didn't mean to place particular attention on his flaws, except to say that his rationality was not complete. It is a pleasure to watch stories with this character in them, because, unlike so much of the drivel we are bombarded with, he routinely rejects irrational explanations and searches reality for information that can help him use reason well. Despite his flaws, it is for that reason a relief to read a Sherlock Holmes story.

I wonder if there are other protagonists from Enlightenment era fiction who hold rationality and reality as primary virtues?

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No. Objectivism (or rather, Ayn Rand) did not invent logic or objectivity. Holmes can be logical and objective without being an Objectivist. He can even be said to be virtuous by the standard of Objectivism. Holmes cannot be an Objectivist without knowing what Objectivism is, and it didn't exist then. In general, being any kind of an "-ist" requires knowledge and intent.

This is a useful identification, thank you.

Your use of "unconsciously" is incorrect. He can act virtuously without knowledge of Objectivism but neither Holmes not anyone else can act "unconsciously". To be unconscious is to be knocked out.

I disagree with this statement and started another thread to discuss it. Can people act unconsciously?

Edited by Scribulus

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No. Objectivism (or rather, Ayn Rand) did not invent logic or objectivity. Holmes can be logical and objective without being an Objectivist. He can even be said to be virtuous by the standard of Objectivism. Holmes cannot be an Objectivist without knowing what Objectivism is, and it didn't exist then. In general, being any kind of an "-ist" requires knowledge and intent.

Your use of "unconsciously" is incorrect. He can act virtuously without knowledge of Objectivism but neither Holmes not anyone else can act "unconsciously". To be unconscious is to be knocked out.

Ah, I completely understand what you are trying to say. Yet it is still possible to accomplish an "Objectivist" reading of Holmes even if the detective himself is not one, right?

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