Archive for the 'The Art of Observation' Category

The Art of Deduction Official Synopsis

The Art of Deduction aims to teach the reader about the techniques and skills used by the legendary fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Many people are familiar with Holmes, if through nothing else than the endless TV adaptations of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories, and the recent film featuring Robert Downey Jnr. as the detective. Holmes, as a character, is larger than life, and his methods can all too easily seem to be the same.
In solving his mysteries, Holmes claims to use a combination of deduction and observation to unearth the truth, and frequently declares his solutions “simplicity itself.” To anyone familiar with the sort of fantastical solution Holmes is generally downplaying, the idea that his solutions are “simplicity itself” is quite absurd. Establishing the long chain of cause and effect, taking into account all the possible variations in the truth that could exist, and wading through all of the confusion to find one perfect, crystalline answer seems like a very complicated process indeed. Is it even possible for a real person to pluck a Holmesian deduction out of the air? The Art of Deduction answers this question with a resounding yes.
The book aims to teach the reader more about Holmes’ process, and helps them take the raw skills used to form those deductions and apply them to their own life. It isn’t a mystery book or story in itself; it just picks apart the mystery behind Holmes’ talent. There are no tricks or secrets to learn; the book teaches the basic concepts and ideas through examples from the original Sherlock Holmes Stories and novels, as well as drawing on many other philosophical and literary texts.
The Art of Deduction is split into four parts: “A Study in Sherlock,” “A Case in Logic,” “The Observation Ritual” and “The Sign of Holmesian Deduction.” Each of these parts deals with a key factor in Holmes’ skill, and uses a combination of story analysis and real-world examples to illustrate the key concepts underpinning the art of deduction and logical inference. The Art of Deduction will teach you:

  • How the different aspects of Holmes’ personality feed his deductive skill.
  • How to examine situations rationally, and avoid forming erroneous conclusions.
  • The concepts and ideas underpinning the study of logic and deduction, focusing on how they relate to the talents and skills displayed by Holmes.
  • How to become an efficient observer and how to tell when people are lying.
  • How to make deductions about people based on your observations.
  • How Holmes forms his fantastic deductions; looking in detail at “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” and “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.”

After the two great deductions have been examined in detail, the only thing left to do is to take the newly learned skills and apply them to real life. This is done in The Art of Deduction through the epilogue, which tells the story of a real-life mystery solved through the Holmesian deduction skills that were taught in the preceding sections of the book. This cements the lessons learned from the book, and allows the reader to see how these could be applied in many different contexts. Whether the reader wants to learn to spot lies, solve mysteries, or just come up with deductions to impress their friends, The Art of Deduction has a lot to offer, and is the perfect training manual for the armchair Holmes.

Posted on Feb. 9th 2012 10:06 AM | by MagicRai | in General, The Art of Observation | 4 Comments »

Holmesian Deduction

Anyone who has read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories will be aware and probably in awe of his deductive and logical prowess. In the stories, it reads like something of a super-power, and many people wish or even fantasize about attaining similar skills themselves. Holmes’ talents frequently leave the other characters dumbfounded, and in “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” Dr. Leon Sterndale even denounces Holmes as “the devil himself.” This allegation is unfounded, and throughout the stories, we (along with Watson- essentially Holmes’ student) learn that his methods are firmly rooted in the study of logic.
Deductive arguments are one of the two major argument forms covered in the study of logic. A deduction is essentially a conclusion that is drawn from a series of premises. For example, from the facts that “Sherlock Holmes is a great detective” and “great detectives are experts in deduction,” we could deductively infer that “Sherlock Holmes is an expert in deduction.” This is a deductive argument because if the two premises are true, then the conclusion has to be true. The other type of argument is an inductive argument, where the premises provide good grounds for accepting a conclusion, but do not prove it beyond all doubt.
Sherlock Holmes is able to take this basic skill and make it into something spectacular. How he does this is by employing a mixture of deductive and inductive reasoning (which he refers to as “the balance of probability”) to reach a reasonable solution to a problem. Forming deductions in the way Holmes does is the process of deciding what can be reasonable extracted from a given set of facts.
To employ this skill in your life, you first have to think rationally. Imagine that several boxes of stock have disappeared from a shop. Matt, Sarah and Harry are suspects. Matt was fired from his last job for theft, but Sarah and Harry are the only staff members that have keys to the store-room. Matt and Sarah were both working on the day of the disappearance.
From this situation, it is tempting to suspect Matt. He has been in trouble for this precise thing before, and he was working on the day of the theft. You couldn’t, however, validly infer that this is true, because he doesn’t have the means to get into the store-room. For Matt to be guilty there would have to be an explanation of how he got in. To a rational mind, schooled in deductive reasoning, Sarah and Harry are more likely suspects.
Holmes knows you can only reason correctly from evidence, and likewise, when you make your own deductions, you have to focus on proof. In this example, you would search diligently for any further evidence, and then see if your theory still holds up. Deduction isn’t a super-power; it is an attainable skill, if you look to the master.

Posted on Jan. 30th 2012 7:26 PM | by MagicRai | in Deduction, The Art of Observation | 11 Comments »

Sherlock’s Eyes Never Lie

If you’re looking to improve your observational skills, it can be hard to know where to start. Most people fancy themselves as being fairly observant anyway, and unless you can develop super-powers, it seems as though improving your observation skills is virtually impossible. Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary literary detective is a master of observation, but he comments that Watson can “see everything […] you fail, however, to reason from what you see” (in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”).
Think about yourself. When you enter a room, how much do you really pay attention to? When you meet people, do you really look at them? How we present ourselves, and even objects we own, can tell trained observers a lot of information. Holmes uses his observational skills throughout Doyle’s original stories and novels to extract specific information about people’s personalities and actions through observation. This reads like something of a parlour trick, and seems a virtually unattainable skill. This, however, is not the case.
Even though Sherlock Holmes was created in the late nineteenth century, the techniques he uses can still be applied in the modern age, and are easy to apply in life. Firstly, and most importantly, the very act of consciously deciding to improve your observation will help. The reason why goes back to how much we really observe in everyday life.
Your brain has a lot of work to do, and is inclined to process things quickly, using as little space as possible. When you see something, it’s easy to just identify the person or object and then pay no further attention. A conscious decision to pay attention to what you see offsets this. Holmes, for example, when presented with a note in “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,” not only reads the content, is actually able to work out where it was written. He notices that the writing is generally quite bad, but there are frequent short portions with neater writing. This is the entirety of the work required by your actual visual capacity to determine the solution.
Holmes’ eyes have picked up the raw data. That is the first stage. This can be practised easily; just really look at the next person you meet. Don’t just identify the key factors, go deeper. For example, you could notice that somebody has smart trousers on, but you have to look for more, perhaps the trousers are smart, but not ironed, or torn at the side. Observation is all about the minute details.
The second stage, as Holmes said, is to “reason from what you see.” From the note, Holmes deduced that it was written on a train, the neat portions representing stations, which were so frequent it could only have been done in central London. In the trousers example, what can we assume about the owner? They are well provided for, because they have smart trousers, but they are probably careless or lazy, because they don’t iron them or look after them.
Honing your observation skills can be of fantastic value in business and personal relationships, and can help you get to know people, identify lies and stay one step ahead of the competition. By examining the Sherlock Holmes canon, you can pick up many of the great detective’s techniques and use them in your own field. Holmes himself says (in The Hound of the Baskervilles) that “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

Posted on Jan. 16th 2012 3:04 PM | by MagicRai | in General, The Art of Observation | No Comments »