Law is the set of rules that regulate human behavior, which are enforced by social or governmental institutions. A clear, publicized, stable system of laws is important to ensure that people have their rights protected and that justice is delivered in an equitable manner.
Definitions of Law
The precise definition of law has long been a subject of debate, but generally it refers to a body of rules that governs conduct and is established and enforced by a governing authority. These can be state-enforced statutes, executive decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent in common law jurisdictions.
Legal history teaches students about the historical evolution of the rules that govern how people behave, and how those rules have changed over time. This is an essential part of any academic program in law.
In the history of law, faculty teach courses that explore topics ranging from feuding and ordeal in medieval Europe to the legal systems of colonial America and twentieth-century business. These courses will give you a solid foundation in the basic principles of law as they’ve evolved over time and prepare you for more specialized studies that focus on legal subjects, such as civil procedure or evidence law.
Idealistic Definitions of Law
The ancient Romans and other jurists defined law in a romanticized way that reflected the ideals of the day. Similarly, the modern Scottish philosopher Salmond described law as “the body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice.”
Civil Law — The judicial and administrative systems of most Western nations developed from civil law traditions. These are based on concepts, categories and rules that derive from the Roman civil law tradition but are supplemented by local custom or culture.
These traditions, though secularized over the centuries and placing more focus on individual freedom, promote cooperation between human beings. This is a critical component of the rule of law, and the historical development of civil law helps explain why it has become so prevalent around the world.
Realist Definitions of Law
A more realistic approach to the study of law focuses on its practical working and effects. It is an interdisciplinary field that draws on the work of sociologists, anthropologists and lawyers, among others.
This type of approach explains how the laws that exist in a society affect people’s everyday lives, and why some people choose to live by different rules than others do. It also explains how the law serves certain social and moral purposes, such as balancing competing interests, protecting individuals from harm or ensuring the survival of the group.
It is important to understand how the rules that people abide by work, and why they have been created in the first place. A good understanding of law will allow you to make informed decisions and be more empathetic toward the plight of those who do not live by your rules.
The most commonly accepted definition of law is that it is the set of rules that governs human behavior, which are enforced by social institutions. Law is an effective device for regulating the behavior of groups and helping to protect individual interests.