31 August 2017


'When Canadian Courts Cite the Major Philosophers: Who Cites Whom in Canadian Caselaw' by Nancy McCormack discusses 
the results of a search of Canadian case law from 1860 to 2016 to determine which major philosophers (born before 1900) were cited most and least often (or never), as well as which judges and courts cited them. The survey indicates that judges from every level of the Canadian courts have, over the years, made explicit references to major philosophic figures in their decisions. Many of the citations deal with eminently practical matters, but the courts have also thought it beneficial to call upon the philosophers for a variety of more strictly “philosophic” notions, for example, Thomas Aquinas on the doctrine of free will, and Bertrand Russell on logical constructions. Who cites whom and in what context and jurisdiction is set out in detail. ...
The 543 citations containing either the wording or ideas of the philosophers named above emanated from only 300 specific judges in their pertinent courts. Some of them may cite only one philosopher in a lifetime of decision writing, while a much smaller number cite philosophers several times (defined here as three or more times in their decisions.) For example while justices of the Supreme Court of Canada cite John Stuart Mill more than any other philosopher, Aristotle is the favourite of the Federal Court and Jeremy Bentham appears most often in Alberta judgments.