Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is often used to settle disputes between individuals, protect people’s rights and ensure justice is served. There are numerous branches of law that govern a variety of activities. Examples include contracts, property and criminal law. Law is also the basis for legal systems at every level of government, from local to federal. It’s also the basis for many careers, including those of lawyers and judges.
Laws are generally considered to be a manifestation of societal norms and beliefs, although there are a number of competing theories about what leads to law. One theory focuses on the idea that laws arise naturally as a result of human cultures and traditions. Another focuses on the ideas of logic, religion and ethics. Finally, some theories focus on the notion that a combination of these factors leads to law.
The nature of law is an important issue because it influences how it’s formulated, enforced and applied. Laws can be proven or hypothetical, sanctioned or unsanctioned, true or false and harmonious or antagonistic. However, no matter what they consist of, all laws must have some element of consistency to qualify as a law.
Because of this, it is important to understand the underlying assumptions behind any particular law or laws. This can help you evaluate its validity and determine whether it is fair or unjust.
For example, the Bible uses a term that is often translated as “law.” This word, tora [h’rah] in Hebrew, more precisely means instruction. It’s used 220 times in the Old Testament, largely in the context of moral admonitions that seem hardly amenable to state enforcement (e.g., Exod 20:17 – 23:5 ).
Some scholars think that tora is the origin of biblical law, but others disagree. They point out that tora can be seen as an extension of natural law, which refers to the natural consequences of actions. It’s also not clear that tora was intended as a model of a legal system that would have evolved over time.
In the meantime, other philosophies of law have emerged. Some of these are based on a belief that the law is just and equitable when it’s written and implemented by people who have been trained as judges. Other philosophies of law are based on a belief that the goal of the law is to protect the rights and liberties of the individual.
A third strand of the philosophy of law is called realism. This is a branch of sociology that studies the way in which societies work and how laws are created, enforced and interpreted. This school of thought is often viewed as a counterbalance to the theological orientation of sociological jurisprudence and neo-realist theories. This approach is sometimes referred to as “legal science.” Its practitioners include lawyers, judges and other judicial officers. Specifically, the law of realism encompasses several concepts, including: