The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes (University Press of Kentucky, 2012)

Edited by Philip Tallon and David Baggett


Arguably the most famous and recognized detective in history, Sherlock Holmes is considered by many to be the first pop icon of the modern age. The fictional detective has stood as a unique and familiar figure for over a century with his reliance on logical rigor, his analytic precision, and his disregard of social mores. A true classic, the Sherlock Holmes character continues to entertain twenty-first century audiences on the page, stage, and screen.

In The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes, a team of leading scholars use the beloved character as a window into the quandaries of existence—from questions of reality to the search for knowledge. The essays explore the sleuth’s role in revealing some of the world’s most fundamental philosophical issues and tendencies, discussing subjects such as the nature of deception, the lessons enemies can teach us, the difference between abduction and kidnapping, and Holmes’s own potential for criminality. Emphasizing the philosophical debates raised by generations of devoted fans, this intriguing volume will be of interest to philosophers and Holmes enthusiasts alike.


The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes is available for purchase. Order it now on Amazon.


Read the Introduction: "The Case of the Conan Doyle Conference." 


Praise for The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes:

"This is an engaging collection that plumbs the intellectual, philosophical, and cultural mysteries of Conan Doyle's most beloved character. It is a work that Holmes himself would have admired."

Thomas Fahy, editor of The Philosophy of Horror

"The contributors offer insightful and interesting thoughts about the philosophy present in Holmes literature. The contributors unravel some of the mysteries which surround life's big questions as they take the reader on an intellectual adventure with Holmes, Watson, and classic and contemporary philosophers."

Michael W. Austin, coeditor of The Olympics and Philosophy

"The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes manages to be both elegantly erudite and consistently entertaining. [The book] would make a fine companion in front of a crackling fire on a rainy night."

E. J. Wagner, author of the Edgar-winning The Science of Sherlock Holmes

"Sherlock Holmes is an intellectual hero for many philosophers: his untangling of seemingly intractable problems by sheer force of reason is an inspiration to professional and amateur thinkers alike. Indeed, understanding how reason has such force is one of philosophy's major goals, as the contributors to this collection ably demonstrate. As one wrangles over the philosophical debates broached in this volume there is much to send one back to those stories with renewed anticipation."

Andrew Aberdein, Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Communication at Florida Institute of Technology

"While no contributor balks at wheeling out the philosophical big guns - Wittgenstein, Kant, Plato, Kierkegaard are all casually invoked - the tone is accessible, informative and enjoyably knowing." 

The Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents:


David Baggett and Philip Tallon

1. Sherlock Holmes as Epistemologist, David Baggett

2. Not the Crime, but the Man: Sherlock Holmes and Charles Augustus Milverton, David Rozema

3. A Case of Insincerity: What Does it Mean to Deceive Someone?, Kevin Kinghorn

4. Sherlock’s Reasoning Toolbox, Massimo Pigliucci

5. Watsons, Adlers, Lestrades, and Moriarties: On the Nature of Friends and Enemies, Philip Tallon

6. Eliminating the Impossible: Sherlock Holmes and the Supernatural, Kyle Blanchette

7. Was It Morally Wrong to Kill Off Sherlock Holmes?, Andrew Terjesen

8. Sherlock Holmes: Artist of Reason, D. Q. McInerny

9. Sherlock Holmes and the Ethics of Hyperspecialization, Bridget McKenny Costello and Gregory Bassham

10. Passionate Objectivity in Sherlock Holmes, Charles Taliaferro and Michel LeGall

11. The Industrious Sherlock Holmes, Gregory Bassham

12. The Dog That Did Not Bark: Learning How to Read “The Book of Life," Carrie-Ann Biondi

13. Aristotle on Detective Fiction, Dorothy L. Sayers

14. The Grim Reaper on Baker Street, Elizabeth Glass-Turner