The Nihilist

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

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.

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Raff Donelson
Illinois Institute of Technology

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References found in this work

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.
Feminism and Pragmatism.Richard Rorty - 1956 - Radical Philosophy 59.
Ethical Pragmatism.Raff Donelson - 2017 - Metaphilosophy 48 (4):383-403.

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