I've finished reading The Essential Holmes by R.A. Posner. A few more quotations I found interesting (offered without further comment):
- To Harold Laski, Dec 9, 1921; on beliefs and metaphysics: "The inevitable is not wicked. If you can improve upon it all right, but it is not necessary to damn the stem because you are a flower."
- To Laski again, May 21, 1927; on social trends, arguing contra socialism: "...as I said the other day, the only contribution that any man makes that can't be got more cheaply from the water and the sky is ideas—the immediate or remote direction of energy which man does not produce, whether it comes from his muscles or a machine. Ideas come from the despised bourgeoisie not from labor."
- Speaking to the Harvard Law School Association, Feb 15, 1913: "I should like to see it brought home to the public that the question of fair prices is due to the fact that none of us can have as much as we want of all the things we want; that as less will be produced than the public wants, the question is how much of each product it will have and how much to go without; that thus the final competition is between the objects of desire, and therefore between the producers of those objects; that when we oppose labor and capital, labor means the group that is selling its product and capital [means] all the other groups that are buying it. The hated capitalist is simply the mediator, the prophet, the adjuster according to his divination of the future desire. If you could get that believed, the body of the people would have no doubt as to the worth of law."
- From "Natural Law" in Harvard Law Review (1918), on the limits to argument: "Deep-seated preferences cannot be argued about—you cannot argue a man into liking a glass of beer—and therefore, when differences are sufficiently far reaching, we try to kill the other man rather than let him have his way. But that is perfectly consistent with admitting that, so far as appears, his grounds are just as good as ours."
- And finally, again to Laski, Feb 1, 1919; on common sense and common law: "A man who calls everybody a damn fool is like a man who damns the weather—he only shows that he is not adapted to his environment, not that the environment is wrong."