"You know my methods. Apply them."

-Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four, chapter 6

Is that really all there is to it, though? Again and again, Holmes states that his ability as a detective is simply down to a set of methods, which can be learnt and applied, that there is nothing more to it than extensive training in how to observe, and in deduction. (Or induction. Or abduction. We can argue about that later.) That anyone could do what he does. The point is, I’m not convinced that it’s this simple, and I believe Watson isn’t convinced either. To a lesser degree? Sure, anyone given the time and commitment could probably achieve some of Holmes’ skills. But to his level? I don’t know.

I think there’s something else: something Holmesian, something particular to him, that allows Sherlock to do what he does. I’m not sure what it is, but I truly believe there is something that takes him from being a smart and observant guy with a lot of specialized knowledge to being Sherlock Holmes

Or maybe these are just the jaded grumblings of someone who is really bad at applying the methods. Or it’s just fiction, and a fantasy that this could ever be achievable, so I should stop thinking about fictional characters as if they were real people, and recognize that things are possible in stories that aren’t possible in real life. I don’t know.

It’s also interesting to note, I think, that for a man who can be so… um, well let’s be honest, intensely vain, ultimately Holmes thinks his abilities are nothing unusual, that they are a product training rather than something personal. It’s curious that he is both self important and self deprecating.

So: is Holmes right? Are there a set of methods that one could apply to be able to do what he does? Or is there something more that takes him from observant to genius? 

Still a bit shocked

elizabethkate submitted: 

…by the very first page of The Sign of the Four. Drug abuse! Waston freaking out and Holmes admitting that it’s bad but he doesn’t care! It was kind of upsetting. I have deeper, more eloquent thoughts about it too, but I had to say this right off. Makes me really worry about Holmes.

I think, if I was forced to choose one excerpt from the canon that everybody should read (and yes, the circumstances of my being forced to do this are more than a little hard to imagine… But let’s be hypothetical for a moment here…) I might choose the first chapter of The Sign of Four. There is just so much going on: the complexities of Holmes and Watson’s relationship, the tragedies of both men, the vital importance of the Game. It’s beautifully painful and quietly tragic, and strange child that I am, I really love that. 

Anyway, this has been a The Science of Deduction appreciation post.