In Seth Vannatta (ed.), The Pragmatism and Prejudice of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. pp. 31-47 (2019)

Raff Donelson
Pennsylvania State University
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.
Keywords Holmes  Pragmatism  Nihilism  William James  Friedrich Nietzsche  Metaethics
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References found in this work BETA

Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.Michel Foucault - 1978 - In John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds.), Nietzsche. Oxford University Press. pp. (139-164).
Nietzsche : Perfectionist.Thomas Hurka - 2007 - In Brian Leiter & Neil Sinhababu (eds.), Nietzsche and Morality. Oxford University Press. pp. 9-31.
Ethical Pragmatism.Raff Donelson - 2017 - Metaphilosophy 48 (4):383-403.
Nietzsche and Nihilism.Richard Schacht - 1973 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 11 (1):65.

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