Evaluating Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: The Path of the Law Sharon Pettaway GOVT 345-B01 LUO September 26, 2016
1 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was a “Justice of the United States Supreme Court, U.S. legal historian and philosopher who advocated judicial restraint.” 1 He is also “sometimes considered the most important precursor of American legal realism.” 2 For this paper, we are asked to read and evaluate the Harvard Law Review article by Holmes entitled The Path of the Law. As in the first paper about Bastiat, we are to identify, to the extent discernable, Holmes’ ontology, epistemology, axiology, and teleology. Ontology, as learned earlier, deals with “what is” or the truth/reality of something and epistemology deals with “the different methods of figuring out that truth.” 3 Both of these “are branches of philosophy.” 4 Axiology is “the philosophical study of goodness, or value” 5 and teleology is “the philosophical interpretation of natural phenomena as exhibiting purpose or design.” 6 We are also to demonstrate, if possible, which of Llewellyn’s 9- Point Manifesto of Legal Realism are present in the article. First looking at the question of ontology, or what is, Holmes states, “When we study law we are not studying a mystery but a well-known profession.” 7 Holmes felt that law was a business or profession in which people pay for lawyers that will fight for them and tell them what they need to do in order to steer clear of trouble. “People want to know under what 1 "Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed September 22, 2016. . 2 "Legal Realism." Accessed September 23, 2016. Realism basic elements.pdf . 3 "What Is the Difference between Epistemology and Ontology?" Reference. Accessed September 11, 2016. . 4 Ibid 5 "Axiology," Encyclopedia Britannica Online, , accessed September 11, 2016, . 6 "Teleology." The Free Dictionary. Accessed September 11, 2016. . 7 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr. "The Path of the Law." Project Gutenberg. February 25, 2006. Accessed September 22, 2016. .
2 circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves” 8 (public force).
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