Prediction Theory Law and Legal Definition

Prediction Theory is a theory expounded by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his essay ‘The Path of the Law.’ According to this theory, a society's legal system is defined by predicting how the law will affect a person, as opposed to considering the ethics or morals supposedly underlying the law. The prediction is best made by viewing the law from the point of view of a “bad man” who is unconcerned with morals. Such a person is not concerned with acting morally or in accordance with a grand philosophical scheme. Rather, that person is concerned with whether and to what degree certain acts will incur punishment by the public force of the law.

This is also known as the bad-man theory or the predictive theory of law.