What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules a society or government develops in order to manage things like crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It is widely considered a complex matter that informs all areas of life, and a variety of branches exist to tackle specific issues. Criminal law, for instance, covers everything from murder to obscene phone calls; contract law regulates the exchange of goods and services; property law defines people’s rights and duties toward their tangible possessions (like houses or cars), as well as intangible property such as bank accounts and shares on the stock market.

The precise nature of law is a subject of longstanding debate, and many theories have been developed. In the classical tradition, Aristotle argued that natural law was a body of precepts innately understood by human beings as good. Later philosophers, notably Cicero and St. Thomas Aquinas, developed more sophisticated explanations of law, arguing that laws were the product of an intellectual process involving human reason and that they contained moral criteria for legitimacy.

Modern legal pragmatists have sought to make the law more responsive to the realities of individual lives by encouraging judges to be more attentive to their own experiences and that of the people they are dealing with, as well as to the way in which different situations present different challenges. They also emphasise that law is a constantly changing process, and so are the predictions based on which it is defined.

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