What Is Law?


A set of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. Law can also refer to the people who work in this system, such as lawyers or judges.

The principal purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. See other articles for more information.

Science has a similar concept of laws, called scientific facts, that are indisputable observations about the natural world and its forces. Scientists agree on these facts, based on a variety of observations and empirical evidence. However, unlike the laws of physics, scientific laws describe what happens but do not explain why it happens.

The prevailing theory in legal philosophy is that the foundation of the law is a principle known as foreseeability, which means that if something is legal, it is foreseeable that it will lead to a particular consequence. However, this has a number of critics who argue that foreseeability is hopelessly flawed and can be manipulated by decision makers to justify just about anything.

Other theories of the function of law have emphasized a role for rights, which are viewed as liberal values put into law. For example, Joel Feinberg and Stephen Darwall have defended a view of the function of rights that is sometimes referred to as the “demand theory” of rights, which emphasizes that right-holders are correlatively entitled to enforceable duties. This approach to the function of rights has some support in a number of doctrinal fields, such as tort and property law.

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