The Philosophy of Law

The Philosophy of Law

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When we consider law, and what law suggests to us as a society, we all have a good idea, or rather a natural sense, of what law is and the kind of things to expect. But trying to put a precise meaning on exactly what law is somewhat more of an uphill struggle. This very question lies at the heart of the study of jurisprudence, or legal viewpoint. Considering that early civilisation, theorists and thinkers have actually dealt with a view to establishing a definitive significance of what law is and where it fits in to the community. From these efforts have actually developed major ‘schools’ of thought which demonstrate concepts and concepts distinct from one and other yet equally valid in their interpretations.

When asked ‘exactly what is law?’, the majority of people will proffer a preliminary response along the lines of ‘law is rules’, or on a more intricate level, ‘law is the guidelines that control our behaviour’. This basic response is really extremely legitimate, and true it forms the foundation of various schools of thought. However, posturing slightly more penetrating questions raises doubts regarding the validity of this statement, and casts doubt over a big agreement of lay-opinion on the matter. For example, if the law is a governing body of rules, then by itself it is worthless. Rules alone can undoubtedly only set specifications at the majority of, and can never seek to regulate independently. In order to offer this regulative element, there is a requirement for something more; there is a requirement for enforcement, or coercion. In our society, this is provided by the hazard of sanctions like jail and fines. For that reason our conventional notion of law as ‘rules’ is deeply flawed: law needs to be more of an interaction in between rules and a physical persuasion. In other words, we require some motivation to comply with the law, partially as a consequence of our nature as human beings, to keep us within its boundaries and to maintain above its line of governance, for that reason there is more required to offer a precise description than this easy straightforward concept.

Think about likewise this essential point in identifying the nature of law at a conceptual level. If the law, as we see it, is a body of guidelines, in what sense do these guidelines run, i.e. are the prescriptive (how one have to act), or detailed (how most of society act). If it is prescriptive, there would basically be a requirement for each resident to discover the law from a young age in order to guarantee consistency with the proscriptive body of legislation. If on the other hand it is detailed of how society acts, this raises the issue of authority: the way society behaves is not an objective concept, therefore why should any offered individual or body of people be paid for a subjective look at what is right and what is incorrect? In a country with strong basic freedoms, it is much more strange that the law is enabled to operate, if it were to run in this sense. Rather it would appear more apt to think about law as a relationship between people internally (with other people) and with the state, with a component of shared agreement in accomplishing the pertinent social ends.

From this basic analysis of the conceptual nature of law, it is evident that there is scope for dispute. So much so, legal scholars have for generations sought academic argumentation and competitors with other authors. From Aristotle to Dworkin to HLA Hart and beyond, the principle of the nature of law is one which is both fascinating and intricate, with many elements and cautions yet to be checked out. In an international legal context, the study of jurisprudence goes beyond territory and specific legal training moving towards the realms of independent thought and observation. Nonetheless the nature of law is a popular academic research study, as well as an interesting and thought provoking topic for the ‘daily’ person subject to its governance.


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