Make Believe and Reality

One of London’s popular tourist attractions is 221a Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes. The blue circular plaque fixed to the facade tells us that the consultant detective lived there from 1881 to 1904. Scores of tourists patiently wait their turn to cross the historic threshold and view the furnishings and relics of the great man.

None is troubled by the fact that Holmes was a fictional character invented by his author, Arthur Conan Doyle. Many believe he was a real person, and all are happy to fall in with this belief while touring the premises.

Only a churlish killjoy would relish announcing to that hopeful throng: ‘You are living in a world of make-believe. All that you see has no more reality than a theatrical stage set. The one who claims your homage never existed.’ Such an announcement would be unsettling, and, although intellectual maturity demands that all must eventually face this truth, now is not the time.

Besides, Holmes, in the context of the stories, is ‘true’: for the criminals he pursues, he is as real as they are. On that fictional level he certainly existed, and his unique personality is the basis of the paraphernalia that celebrate his memory.

Subscribe or enrol for free guest access to read all of this article and Self-Knowledge online.


This article is from the Winter 2017 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.