The Law as a Path to the World

Many years ago the late Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed: “The law is a small subject (though … it leads to all things) …. ” The comments that follow are an elaboration of Justice Holmes’s theme. It will be asserted that one characteristic of legal studies, properly pursued, is that they lead to a fuller understanding of the larger world of which the law and its institutions are a part. Because the law leads to a larger world of persons, events, and ideas, it claims the attention even of those possessing no interest in acquiring professional legal skills. This characteristic of legal studies, it will be argued, provides one (but by no means the only) important justification for the humanistic pursuit of the law.