Friday, July 12, 2019

Donelson on Holmes and Nihilism

Raff Donelson, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, has posted The Nihilist, which appears in The Pragmatism and Prejudice of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Seth Vannatta, ed. Lexington Press 2019), 31-48:
Scattered skeptical remarks and a general austerity that infused his writings have given Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes a reputation as some type of nihilist. Noted commentators such as Richard Posner and Albert Alschuler have claimed as much. This article seeks to correct this misunderstanding. Holmes was not a nihilist in the sense of being melancholy due to a belief that the world has no absolute moral values or gods. Instead, Holmes was a pragmatist in the spirit of William James and John Dewey. While Holmes had doubts about moral truth and deities, he ultimately thought that their existence (or non-existence) should have no bearing on our behavior or the law. We must, through our collective efforts, find values that work for us.
–Dan Ernst.  H/t: Legal Theory Blog

TOC for the volume after the jump: