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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.36) Chapter Two Logic
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Legal Logic

Frederic R. Kellogg

University of Chicago Press

After attending lectures on the logic of induction by Charles Sanders Peirce in 1866 and reading Mill’s A System of Logic, Holmes echoed Mill’s critique of the syllogism and his notion of "reasoning from particulars to particulars." In his 1866 Lowell Lectures, Peirce addressed the use of the syllogism with respect to "occasions," as opposed to objects with extension, and criticized Mill’s assumption of a natural similarity of particulars, implying a human contribution. Holmes applied these insights to law, analyzing how legal similarity is negotiated and entrenched in the common law. In 1870 he explored the emergence of generals from particulars, recognizing a social dimension of legal induction, wherein the bearing of particular to general is one of consensual integration from repeated experience into a developing system of classification. This reflects the vision of the British scientist William Whewell, of the growth of human knowledge through the tension between facts and ideas. Legal and scientific knowledge may both be viewed as forms of community inquiry, focusing on the primacy of cases and exemplars in the process of classification, and the role of concepts in guiding the conduct of professional inquirers, framing and maintaining the coherence of expert and general belief.

Keywords:   logic, syllogism, induction, convergence, Charles S. Peirce, John Stuart Mill, William Whewell, growth of legal knowledge, similarity, law and science

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