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“Philosophy.—Nil.” [STUD] 

Early on in the Sherlock Holmes stories, we learn about Sherlock Holmes's aptitude with regard to philosophy. In his famous list titled "Sherlock Holmes—his limits," Watson lays out Holmes's strengths and weaknesses.

Holmes's philosophical bent was the second item on Watson's list, and Holmes didn't fare well:
2. [Knowledge of] Philosophy.—Nil.

And yet, he didn't have difficulty in defeating Professor Moriarty, who, as a professor of mathematics, Holmes also called "a genius, a philosophy, an abstract thinker." [FINA]

Perhaps because Holmes himself was also an abstract thinker.

Yes, he relied on data to form his opinions (“Data! data! data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.” [COPP]), but he also was imaginative enough to consider different perspectives or possibilities that didn't occur to the traditional police.

Take "Silver Blaze" for example. Holmes knew to look for the wax vesta that was buried in the mud, he observed animals (the dog, the sheep, etc.), and had this to say about the inspector who was in charge of the case:
“Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been committed, is an extremely competent officer. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to great heights in his profession.” [Emphasis ours.]
We're reminded of a quote from Young Sherlock Holmes:
"A great detective relies on perception, intelligence, and imagination."

And in that triumvirate of traits is much of what makes up a philosopher's approach.

It's difficult to imagine Sherlock Holmes applying reason and perspective without using philosophy. Perhaps he picked up what he knew at Baker Street Elementary...

Baker Street Elementary follows the original adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, as they and their friends work through the issues of elementary school in Victorian London. An archive of all previous episodes can be viewed at www.bakerstreetelementary.org.