Great but for the date

A Philosophical Investigation - Philip Kerr

The problem for any author who writes about the future is attaching a date to that vision. 1984, 2001, etc.  Here we are in 2014 and witness that the future is much more prosaic than the book or movie. The same is true here. The year is 2013. Chief Inspector “Jake” Jacowicz has been assigned to investigate the murders of several VMN-negative men. Research has revealed that men who are deficient in Ventro Medial Nucleus are more likely to commit violent antisocial acts. The Lombroso project was created to analyze men, to find those who are VMN deficit and to provide counseling and drug treatment in order to prevent their violent natures from committing crimes. Unfortunately, one of the VMN-negative men has found his way into the database and is killing off the men.


Each of the men has been given a code name to protect his privacy. The killer’s code is Ludwig Wittgenstein (obviously the title is a pun on Wittgenstein's most famous work), a twentieth century philosopher who speculated on the nature of language and its relationship to empirical reality. Oddly, the killer, in the eyes of the detectives begins to assume characteristics similar to the original philosopher whose diaries reveal interesting speculations on the nature of death and reality. Punishment in 2013 consists of punitive coma of varying lengths — often permanent. This was a way of defeating the anti-capital punishment groups. Obviously a person in a coma is not dead, they are being fed and cared for, and we know brain waves continue during coma, and its reversible nature at will (in 2013) provides control and saves money.  Ironic given recent events in Oklahoma.


The book  is quite interesting in some of the philosophical issues it raises. The discussion of murder is particularly interesting. “Because each time I kill one of my brothers, I am, of course, killing God. But just a minute, I hear you say: if someone kills God and God does not exist, then surely he’s killing nothing at all. It makes no sense to say ‘I am killing something’ when the something does not exist. I can imagine a god that is not there, in this forest, but not kill one that is not there. And ‘to imagine a god in this forest’ means to imagine a god is there. Burt to kill a god does not mean that. . . But if someone says ‘in order for me to be able to imagine God he must after all exist in some sense’, the answer is: no, he does not have to exist in any sense. Except one. Where God does exist is in the mind of man. Ergo, one kills a man, one kills God.” Fascinating.


There are other intriguing speculations on the nature of society and what is right and wrong. Society is simply a bias toward commonly held standards of what constitutes right and wrong. “That does not give us the truth about my acts. Only the appearance of truth. For thousands of years, when a man took another man's property it was called theft. But for almost a century, in certain parts of this world this sort of thing was legitimized by the name of Marxism. Tomorrow’s political philosophy might sanction murder, just as Marxism once sanctioned theft.

You talk about a standard of a decent society. . .. But what kind of society is it that regards a President of the United States who orders the use of nuclear weapons to kill thousands of people as a great man, and another man who assassinates a single President as a criminal?”



Very good detective story that speculates on numerous important issues, but he would have been better advised to leave the year ambiguous..