Present Appreciation and Future Advantage: A Note on the Influence of Hobbes on Holmes

American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 412-434, October 2005

38 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2008  

Thomas A Balmer

Oregon Supreme Court

Abstract

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a major figure in American law, philosophy, and social thought generally, and his influence is still felt in those fields. This article examines the influence of Thomas Hobbes on Holmes. The article examines Holmes's reading of Hobbes's works and Holmes's references to Hobbes in judicial opinions and other writings. It then considers several parallels between the views of Hobbes and Holmes, including their view of life as a ceaseless struggle for self-preservation and power; the absolute nature of sovereign power; and the positivist view of law, in contrast to natural law. The article closes with some observations about the role of literary style in the writings of Hobbes and Holmes.

Keywords: Holmes, Hobbes, law, jurisprudence, philosophy, legal history, pragmatism

Suggested Citation

Balmer, Thomas A, Present Appreciation and Future Advantage: A Note on the Influence of Hobbes on Holmes. American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 412-434, October 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1092536

Thomas A Balmer (Contact Author)

Oregon Supreme Court ( email )

1163 State Street
Salem, OR 97301-2563
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.ojd.state.or.us

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