Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Theodore Dalrymple

Holmes & his commentators (Sherlock, that is):

All that this goes to show, however, is that the higher criticism of the canon can never come to an end--which is precisely its delight. It is a form of completely innocent scholasticism, upon the results of which nothing whatever depends. It allows entry into a world of erudition without any corresponding social responsibility whatever. A man may sift the Talmudic literature and come to the conclusion that to flush a lavatory on the Sabbath day is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, which is certainly an inconvenience, or sift the Hadith and come to the conclusion that the beheading of infidels is not merely permitted but obligatory, which is certainly a sadistic pleasure, but however much people may argue about what the H in John H. Watson stands for, they will never come to blows, nor does anything depend upon the answer given. The possibilities of such argument are endless, for there can never be proof. The scholasticism of the higher criticism is in effect a platonic form of pleasure in learning. It is the exercise of intellect and imagination for its own sake.
Sort of a higher form of arguing over the greatest athlete of the twentieth century, or the best episode of the Simpsons. In any case, I think I will start looking for a suitable set of the Holmes stories. And don't think my sons (any day now!) won't be reading Encyclopedia Brown in a few years, too.

No comments: