What is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of debate, but essentially law refers to the set of enforceable guidelines that defines a society’s orderly behaviour. Laws may be enacted by a legislature and codified in statutes or decrees, or they can be established by judges through precedent and case law (known as common law). Alternatively, private individuals might create legally binding contracts governed by contract law.

The concept of law varies widely among philosophers, sociologists and historians. Some scholars have argued that it is a collection of normative prescriptive statements describing how people should behave, while others have emphasized the role of authority in establishing and enforcing the laws. Still others have used the term to describe a social science or even a science of human affairs, arguing that law explains and predicts the behaviour of human beings.

From a philosophical point of view, the main features of law are its normative and predictive nature, and its immanent and probabilistic character. It is a system of rules that a group or individual perceives to be true and that they use as the basis for their rational choices, making them bet on expected outcomes. Laws are a part of an individual’s narrative, which is the result of their experiences and stories they have heard from other people. Therefore, when they make decisions, they predict the intersection of their narrative and an external reality that is shaped by other people’s narratives.

In the case of law, this is a narrative about justice and fairness. However, it is difficult to verify if it comprises precepts that are objectively true or not, given the limits of our understanding of human nature and the world around us. This is why the study of law should be considered a scientific discipline.

The subjects of law are vast, covering virtually all areas of life. Labour law, for example, encompasses the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, trade union and employee; while property law deals with ownership of land and possessions, ranging from a right in rem to personal property, and intellectual property laws address issues such as patents, copyright and trademarks. The study of law also includes criminal and civil procedure, regulating how a court deals with cases. Then there is taxation law, which concerns value added taxes and corporate income tax, as well as banking law and financial regulation, dictating the minimum standards banks must meet to insure against economic crises. Evidence law, meanwhile, determines which materials are admissible in a court of law. Consequently, the study of law is complex from both a methodological and an ontological viewpoint. Nevertheless, it remains an important and prestigious subject. It is a discipline that can help to transform one’s personality and provide them with an opportunity to change the world.

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