Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another reason to like Holmes

I’m working my way through Judge Posner’s latest – How Judges Think – and as is often the case when I read his work I find that much of what is most interesting appears almost in the form of asides. (So far the primary shortcoming of the book is that it’s a little light on citations to yours truly – which is to say there aren’t any. Not a single one. There are plenty of places where they’d fit nicely, perhaps even accompanied by a little textual discussion. But no. Judge Posner can expect a packet of reprints from me any day now.) One that just struck me is this:

I conjecture that Holmes—surprisingly given his distinguished lineage, his professional success, his commanding presence, and his wartime prowess—did not take himself very seriously. He was a wit, and wit implies a sense of incongruity, including the incongruity between one’s pretensions and one’s achievements. If you do not take yourself very seriously you are unlikely to fool yourself into thinking you have all the answers.

I don’t know how strong the basis for that conjecture is – I don’t recall having seen the point made before – but I like it. Seems like the sort of thing there ought to be more of.

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