A dynamics theory of justice : Nietzsche, Holmes, and self-organizing criticality


University of British Columbia

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Doctor of Philosophy - PhD




Problem: Although Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. transformed American jurisprudence into critical self-awareness, there is no consensus on the nature of his legal theory. Holmes imperfectly represents each of several incompatible approaches. Commentators presume Holmes lacked any original or coherent theory of justice. Friedrich Nietzsche is likewise presumed a critical philosopher without a coherent theory of justice. Nietzsche wrote esoterically, but there is no consensus on the content of his esoteric agenda. Nietzsche's attitudes toward women appear misogynistic, but his philosophy paradoxically appeals to many feminists. Method: By re-conceptualizing Holmes and Nietzsche in terms of the principles of self-organized criticality, their understandings of causation and developmental dynamics become coherent. This thesis re-conceptualizes common-law legal reasoning as exploiting principles of self-organized criticality to build knowledge inductively. This reveals that Holmes and Nietzsche's genealogical critique of idealism rests on the computational implausibility of assuming there always exist microlevel rules to achieve desired macro-level goals. The legal-reasoning model shows that justice entails an inexhaustible open-system dynamic of applying limited resources to accommodate better an ever-broadening matrix of conflicting values. Nietzsche assesses psychological and social conditions that foster this collective creativity and decadent conditions that inhibit the growth of justice. Nietzsche identifies problems specific to institutions that require special safeguards that he esoterically conceals. Using Nietzsche's exoteric accounts of psychology and rhetoric based on principles of self-organized criticality, Nietzsche's esoteric techniques can be inferred, including his syncretism of pagan myths, which reveals his esoteric content. Conclusion: Holmes and Nietzsche applied a coherent theory of justice based on principles of causation and dynamics not widely accepted until the late twentieth century but having roots in ancient myths and isolated prior thinkers. Nietzsche defines justice as pursuing robust community growth without sacrificing the future for the present. Both Holmes and Nietzsche accord pursuit of justice with the good life whereby individuals promote their own development for greater sacrifice for the community. Nietzsche's esoteric solution to his problem of institutions was matriarchy. Nietzsche's matriarchy follows from his identification of the root of the institutional problem as male windfall opportunism, an evolved unconscious male tendency resulting from uncertainty over genetic parentage.


Holmes, Oliver Wendell, -- 1841-1935 -- Contributions in philosophy of law; Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, -- 1844-1900 -- Contributions in philosophy of law; Law -- Philosophy; Jurisprudence

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of