Law is the system of rules a government or society develops to deal with issues such as crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It can also refer to the professions that work in this system, such as lawyers or judges.
There are many different theories of law, and each one may have slightly different emphases or concerns. But most theories share an important point: that laws are the way society organizes itself to promote and achieve certain goals. These goals can be anything from maintaining the status quo and preventing war to protecting minorities against majorities, promoting equality and social justice, or allowing for orderly social change. Moreover, the laws of a nation can also serve to keep the peace, preserve individual rights, and ensure the security of property.
The most basic view of law is that it is a set of legal norms which are enforceable by governmental institutions (see also constitutional law). The precise definition of the word “law” is a matter of longstanding debate and varies widely across philosophical traditions. Law is typically viewed as being created and enforced by legislative bodies, courts, or the executive branch of government.
A key aspect of any law is that it must be justified. Justification involves demonstrating that a particular rule is legally valid, and this typically requires some sort of normative grounding, either from other law or from a source of law. Thus, for example, a judge’s decision in a case must be justified by arguing that the decision is consistent with a certain legal principle.
Some laws, such as Boyle’s law, are statements that describe invariable relationships among phenomena under a given set of conditions. Others are a kind of natural law, and they must be observed in the context of the real world to have meaning.
For example, Blackstone argued that the law of God and the law of revelation (Scripture) should be the guiding principles for human laws, and he warned that laws which were inconsistent with these principles were invalid.
Another guiding principle is that the law should always be interpreted in light of the social and ethical values of the times. This was the view of the founders of America, who based the Constitution on this concept and wrote that “The law shall be the supreme authority in all matters of conscience.” The founding fathers believed this meant that the laws should reflect morality, good ethics, and the common sense of the people of a nation. It is this moral standard that most modern legal philosophers subscribe to.