"Experience has shown, and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of the truth arises from the seemingly irrelevant." It isn't an assignment or anything, I just think it's an interesting quote and would like to see how peoples' ideas are different than mine.

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This quote is profound -- the key word "irrelevant" suggests that what we know is by nature incomplete -- that there are other facets of the truth that may appear to us, but don't fit into the constructs of what we know to be "true."  Poe's statement that the truth arises from the irrelevant suggests that by having to incorporate those irrelevant bits of truth into what we already know, it leads us to a profounder sense of that which is true. This sounds a bit like "paradigm shift" first defined by Thomas Khun (1922-1996) in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Newtonian physics couldn't quite define the nature of light; it was one "irrelevant" point that didn't fit into the splendid system of Classical Mechanics.  By attempting to incorporate that irrelevancy, Relativity and Quantum physics were discovered, which has given us a deeper (truer) understanding of how the universe works.

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Experience shows that truth is in the irrelevant in such ways as revealing character/personality conflict or compatibility in relationships through the minutia that, compared to the large concerns of relationships, would be considered--even scorned as--irrelevant. Examples are how two different people approach road trips or approach moving house or approach washing dishes. An example of how philosophy shows that truth is in the irrelevant is Goethe's study of (irrelevant) seeds that led to his development of the theory of metamorphosis.

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Poe illustrates the point of this quotation in his famous story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." In that story, the detective pays attention to details that go unnoticed by others and thus solves the crime. The same idea is illustrated in many of the "Sherlock Holmes" detective stories. As a generalization, the quotation would seem to hold true in many other fields besides the detection of crime. Often, in trying to find answers, we follow common or traditional assumptions and thus fail to think and perceive with original insight. To take a very trivial example: recently, on Facebook, a friend said he had heard an expert reveal the kind of food most commonly eaten by teenagers. He asked his friends to see if they could guess what that food is.  People guessed all the kinds of food you might expect: pizza, burgers, french fries, potato chips, chocolate, etc., etc. Only after he told us to "think globally" did someone finally guess the correct answer: rice.

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I suppose in that many people consider Edgar Allan Poe to be the father of the detective story, this would seem to make sense. If art imitates life (and crime dramas use this formula all the time), it seems most of the important information in discovering the truth of something lies in the small details. Perhaps this is because truth sometimes needs to be ferreted out because the water in which it lies is too murky. Other times the truth is covered by lies or half-truths, so the small details which are generally ignored, seem to speak volumes if one is patient and observant enough to search them out. It is also important to note that truth often looks very different to different people. And maybe that is why people struggle to agree on what truth is.

It is a great quote which raises quite a few philosophical issues which would be excellent to discuss in a classroom, or even with regard to more novels than we might first suspect. Aren't some of the greatest authors "guilty" of spreading small truths beneath the surface of the story, asking us to dig deeply to discover the reality of the author's intent in telling his/her tale? It's what I love most about well-written literature.

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Similar to "can't see the forest through the trees"?  And in terms of a police investigation, it is common for investigators to focus in on details and circumstances immediate to the crime, but missing either the larger picture or the details and accounts nearby that are often initially missed.  Arrests might get made and convictions arrived at, but without the larger picture, there might still be no justice.  Another example of Poe's frustrations with society.

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I was wondering what your thinking is on this.  You haven't said what it makes you think.

To me, the meaning of this quote is that the "devil is in the details" or that if you "take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."  In other words, what the quote says to me is that all the little things that happen to us on a day to day and minute to minute basis are really important.  It is the things that we do repeatedly (and not what happens at "big" moments) that reveal the truth about who we really are.

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To me, this quote is highlighting the difficulty that arises in trying to gather all the facts in so many situations. Whenever an individual is faced with making a significant decision of some sort, the logical and rational mind wants to gather as much information as possible that is relevant to the circumstances that might impact the decision. That's much easier to say than to do! The "seemingly irrelevant" that often gets discounted in the information-gathering process too often turns out to be of considerable importance.

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This quote actually comes from a column that Poe wrote for The Columbia Spy entitled "The Doings of Gotham." You may find it helpful to note something about the context, as this will only help to shed further light on the quotation that you have highlighted.

Poe was writing about the trial of Polly Bodine, and, in bemoaning the inability of the police to investigate crimes successfully, Poe remembers the affair of Mary Rogers and the way that the police were particularly influenced by the press and what they published about the case. In particular, Poe finds it incredibly frustrating that the police (and the press) only focussed on the immediate factors, whilst completely ignoring the circumstantial and collateral events, which, Poe believed, were so important for this case. Thus Poe said this famous quote, that points towards the way that truth has more to do with the irrelevant than what we assume to be the seemingly relevant. Poe argues that our perception of truth and how we view it needs to change in order for us to understand it and comprehend it. We need to look beyond the easy answers and what we feel is relevant to deeper factors that we normally would not associate as being relevant.

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