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Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Legal Logic$
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Frederic R. Kellogg

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226523903

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226524061.001.0001

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(p.19) Chapter One Prologue
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Legal Logic

Frederic R. Kellogg

University of Chicago Press

This chapter follows Holmes's readings and discussions after returning to Boston in 1864 from the Union Army. Francis Bacon’s empiricism had guided English scientific progress before the American Civil War, and Holmes and several Cambridge friends followed a renewed debate over the ground of knowledge and discovery, contextualized by early modern philosophy, a debate engaged in by the scientists William Whewell, John Herschel, and Charles Darwin. It encompassed a disagreement between Whewell and John Stuart Mill over scientific method. Holmes’s often misinterpreted perspective stems from surprising sources, the debate over scientific method and the reformism that drove Mill’s empirical attitude; but this collided in Holmes with his experience of violent ideological conflict, creating a sense of the precariousness of human hopes and accomplishments. His view of conflict resolution contemplated a threshold of failure and resort to violence, as had occurred in 1861. Holmes’s interests, meetings with peers, and research are traced through his personal diaries and reading lists to his early essays from 1870 to 1880. They reveal an inductive turn focused on retrospective translation of particular judgments into legal rules and principles. In addressing the problem of conflict, Holmes added a uniquely social element to the logic of induction.

Keywords:   early modern philosophy, scientific method, John Stuart Mill, William Whewell, Charles S. Peirce, Charles Darwin, Metaphysical Club

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