Document Type



Published in: Canadian Business Law Journal, vol. 40, no. 3 (October 2004).


This article is a revised version of a paper delivered at the 33rd Annual Workshop on Commercial and Consumer law, held at the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto. It is a commentary on Stephen Waddams, Dimensions of Private Law: Categories and Concepts in Anglo-American Legal Reasoning (Cambridge, Press 2003). The article first reviews Waddams' thesis of the inadequacy of simple explanations or categorizations of private law and Waddams' admonition to avoid labeling cases such as contract or tort, as if one involves solely enforcing agreements and the other only wrongdoing. The article then goes on to analyze questions inspired by Waddams' book: What accounts for the popularity of conceptualizing private law? What are the ramifications of the reality that private law is complex and multidimensional? What new approaches to the study of decision-making shed light on the judicial process when judges confront multidimensional problems? The article concludes that analysts should not be sanguine about the ability of judges to handle complexity and that judges make systematic errors in that environment just like everyone else. If categorizing or mapping moves only a few prominent concepts to the forefront, perhaps it performs an important service.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Private Law, Stephen Waddams