Oliver Wendell HolmesView On The Relationship Between The Law And Morality

1560 WordsOct 4, 20177 Pages
A substantial debate regarding the law’s relationship with morality exists within the legal system. This debate gained new perspective when Oliver Wendell Holmes published The Path of Law in 1897. This work outlined Holmes’ view on the relationship between the law and morality. This paper will first consider whether or not Holmes believed that a writing must be moral in order to constitute a law. Next, the paper will explore my general agreement with Holmes’ view on this matter. Then, the paper will consider the best objection to my agreement with Holmes, and reply to that objection. Finally, the paper will end by drawing conclusions from the discussion of the relationship between morality and law. In this paper, I will argue that Holmes…show more content…
These predictions are often guided by past legal decisions (Holmes, 183). This view of the law compliments Holmes view of the purpose of the law, as both are pragmatic approaches. With a solid understanding of the nature of law according to Holmes, one may now determine whether or not Holmes viewed morality as a necessary condition for a writing to be considered a law. Based on the nature of the law outlined by Holmes, one can conclude that Holmes did not believe that a writing must be moral in order to constitute a law. As we have seen, the law is nothing more than a mechanism of prediction (Holmes, 184). Moreover, a writing does not have to be grounded in morality in order to be considered a law, it just has to play a role in the prediction mechanism. Holmes goes so far to say that moral language confuses the distinction between morality and law (183). Furthermore, he says that he “often doubt[s] [whether] it would not be a gain if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether” (Holmes, 185). This is in spite of the fact that Holmes notes that the law “tends to make good citizens and [morally] good men” (183). Moreover, Holmes also states that the law shows us the history and progression of morality in humans (183). These two facts show that Holmes’ view of the law leaves a role for morality to play. More specifically, knowledge of the culturally accepted morality of the day

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