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Author and Philosopher Irving M. Copi: "The Detective As Scientist"

Updated on February 5, 2012
Irving Copi's high school photograph in 1934.
Irving Copi's high school photograph in 1934.
Irving Copi (7/28/1917-8/19/2002)
Irving Copi (7/28/1917-8/19/2002)

Personal History

Irving Copi was an American philosopher and logician. He was also a textbook author for universities. Copi was born in Duluth, Minnesota on July 28, 1917 and died on August 19, 2002 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He co-authored with Carl Cohen, An Introduction to Logic (now in its 14th Edition). His last working position was at the University of Hawaii as a philosophy professor.

Irving's parents immigrated to America from Russia. Copi whose birth name was Irving Marmer Copilowish, shortened his last name to Copi. Copi went to school in Duluth and received all his degrees including Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

In 1941, Copi married Amelia Glaser and together, they had four children, namely, David, Thomas, William, and Margaret.

Review of "The Detective As Scientist"

Irving Copi establishes in his seven points of reason how a detective can be compared to a scientist. Copi illustrates that how a mystery being solved by a detective is similar to a perplexity being deciphered by a theoretical scientist. Copi uses Detective Sherlock Holmes as his example in composing his analogy as he clearly and reasonably states his comparison. Copi's argument seemed logical to me because the strategy and expertise of a detective definitely are similar to the systematic observations and thoughtful experimentations of the mannerisms of a scientist.

Copi begins his exploration of the comparison of detective versus scientist with the use of a mystery of an unsolved death wherein the famous Detective Sherlock Holmes serves as a medium to prove his point.

First, to a detective or a scientist, Copi states that initially there must be a problem presented to either of them. Holmes, a thinker, would go over and over data in his mind when posed with an unsolved problem. For the detective, without a problem, there is no necessity to search for clues. For the scientist, without a question, there is no sound reason to search for an answer.

Copi shares that although Holmes chooses not to theorize before receiving all evidence because it colors the analysis, that it is the "final judgment" which should not be reached before all evidence is in. Copi also states that one must theorize prior to making serious attempts in collective evidence. The detective as well as the scientist must select and decide which details or factors to study. In Copi's example, Holmes, while en route to the scene of the crime, obviously was already formulating a theory. Based on Holmes' previous experience with crimes and clues, it was a fact that a possible belief, or hypothesis, led Holmes to look at the scene of the crime. Though a preliminary hypothesis may not be the entire answer to a problem, it is required for any probing or searching to proceed. The same can be held true for a scientist.

Copi states that the act of questioning is initiated by a fact or facts which appear to be problematic to the one who makes inquiries or researches. These problematic facts will persuade the detective or scientist to develop preliminary hypotheses which will cause both to search for supplementary facts. Hopefully, these additional facts will serve as evidence or indicators to a final solution or explanation.

Copi continues to enlighten us with Detective Holmes' investigation of the unsolved crime. He points out how Holmes came up with a hypothesis after thinking on accumulated data, all the facts which comprised the problem, and the additional facts that gave to the preliminary hypotheses. Thus, a detective as well as a scientist both create solutions and answers with their imagination and knowledge.

Copi goes on to state that a good hypothesis will lead to the new facts which might have gone unnoticed. Also, using deduction is important in the means of any scientific or persuasive investigation. Copi explains that Holmes needed to confirm his theories by checking the facts reasoned from his hypothesis. A scientist, too, would need to verify his findings, i.e., predictions concerning a disease, through experimentation. Copi states some of this testing can be done through observations as well.

Finally, as Copi moves on, Holmes, in making application of his theory, predicts where the criminal is and how he can be apprehended. Copi states Holmes must infer more details from the hypothesis just for practical use. Copi clearly stated his reasons through his own observation of how Holmes, a detective, acted similar to that of a scientist. Holmes used reasoning from a set of facts and came up with a hypothesis that he put to the test. In applying the hypothesis, his deductions were confirmed.

Copi's analogy was convincing and entertaining. What better example could he have possibly used than to include respectable and postulated Detective Holmes. Those of us who are familiar with Holmes are well aware of his dedication to thoughtful processes. Copi defines his connection between the detective acting as scientist. Both are presented with problems; both collect their data to come up with theories formulating hypotheses; both continue to gather supplementary facts and information; both test or experiment their theories and/or predictions; and lastly,k both apply their hypotheses. Copi makes a good argument in showing how a connection does exist between the detective and scientist.


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