The Public Interest

Social science and the courts

Daniel P. Moynihan

Winter 1979

FROM the time, at the beginning of the century, that American legal scholars and jurists began to speak of the “science of law” it was rather to be assumed that the courts would in time find themselves involved with the social sciences. This was perhaps more a matter of probability than of certainty, for it was at least possible that the “legal realists," or “progressive realists,” as they are variously denominated, would have found the social science of that and subsequent periods insufficiently rigorous for their standards-a case at least some social scientists, then as now, would have volunteered to make for them. But Pound and Cardozo and Holmes were indeed realists, and seemingly were prepared to make do with what was at hand, especially when there was such a correspondence with the spirit and structure of their own enterprise.

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