The Nature of Law


Law is a system of rules that helps to ensure a safe and peaceful society. It also regulates economic activity and provides a means of resolving disputes between citizens or between governments and individuals. Some laws are based on moral precepts, such as Jewish Halakha or Islamic Sharia, whilst others are the result of human elaboration like the Quran and Christian canon law.

The fact that law reflects certain moral principles, the authority of which is backed by force and threat of sanctions, has led some philosophers to explore the nature of law. They have a particular interest in understanding how law differs from other normative domains, such as morality and social conventions. They ask whether, despite the coercive aspect and sanction-imposing functions of law, it is possible for disagreement to arise over the extent to which a set of norms qualifies as being “law”.

Nevertheless, there are many different ideas about what a legal system should be. These include the need for a transparent process for creating laws, clarity in expression of rights and duties, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances by interpreting the law or by creating new jurisprudence, the need for clear procedures for resolving conflicts, the importance of a rich and well-developed academic doctrine inspiring the legislature and judiciary, and the extent to which the law should be coercive.

Individual articles focus on specific areas of law, such as criminal, labour and family laws or business and transactional laws. See also administrative law and constitutional law for political issues relating to the formation of a legal system.

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