Monday, June 25, 2007

Lógico es malo

[NOTE--Please stay tuned for what I hope is an interesting thought about logic.]

The Silence of the Lambs is an enjoyable, highly thought-provoking book. There is a scene where Clarice is talking to Dr. Lecter in his cell in Baltimore. Dr. Lecter asks her about her background, noting that, although she carries an expensive purse, she wears cheap shoes. From this, he determines that she is a cop's daughter trying to escape some nightmare from her past. It's similar to the kind of syllogisms that House, Sherlock Holmes, and Robert Goren make. Drs. Lecter and House and Detectives Holmes and Goren usually capitalize on some obscure detail that opens a clear avenue of logical certainty and conclusion.

It reminds me of an old Encyclopedia Brown story. I don't remember any details of the story, but (Bad, Bad?)Leroy Brown solves the crime by determining that Bugs Meany was lying. How? Because, when referring to his shirt pocket, Bugs drew the outline on the right side of his chest instead of the left. Most men's shirts have pockets (if at all) on the left side. Tada! Bugs = liar = criminal. Book'im Sally Kimball.


Oliver Wendell Holmes said "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." Just so, the life of medicine and crime-fighting has been experience, not logic. Those doctors and detectives make these great conclusions not based on the syllogisms they pretend to construct but based on their own life experiences. Encyclopedia solved that crime because his experience told him that all the tiny little factors (among which the lie [equivocation?] about the shirt pocket was only one) pointed to the culprit. If you're like me and you think that Sherlock, House, Hannibal, Goren, and Encyclopedia are how you want to be*, the only way to acquire those skills is to live life and pay attention.

So--lógico es malo because it only takes you so far, though it pretends to take you much farther. Life, however, is too complicated to fit neatly into a syllogism. At some point, you have to stop being rational and let your own experience give you the answers. Is that comfortable? No, especially if you don't have much experience, como mío.

Just out of curiosity, would anybody watch a TV show (maybe just an episode, say) where House's logical jumps proved wrong every step of the way?

*Well, maybe I don't want to be like Hannibal . . .


Craig Pankratz said...

Well said.

Yee said...

There is an episode of House like that, when he's going through withdrawal and nearly kills his patient. And there's another where Chase is the one that solves the mystery and prevents the patient from losing a... leg, I think? Anyway, it does happen. Just like Perry Mason has a guilty client every once in a blue moon. :)