Document Type


Publication Date



Do the comments of Mr. Justice Holmes on American law interest us today? Are Holmes's remarks on what law is, or about legal education in America and how we might study and learn our legal system, important to today's legal world? If Stanley Cavell is correct in thinking that philosophy-whether old or new-demands a say in testing anything that claims our interest, or that purports to have a place of importance in our lives, then these questions asked of Holmes's writings are genuine philosophical queries.

Similar questions have been pursued Socratically, as is familiar from the Apology. In making his defense statement to his jurors, Socrates excuses the burden and the imposition that he thrusts upon his Athenian neighbors by claiming that both he and his neighbors need to examine their lives. At his trial for impious behavior, Socrates implores his audience to expend the time and energy required to discover what interests them and what is truly important to their community. From a more modem perspective, however, we can pursue these questions with a Wittgensteinian emphasis rather than a Socratic one; that is, we can ask whether Wittgenstein's later philosophy might afford us help in assessing the interest or the value of one of Holmes's signature remarks about the law and its study.