What is Law?
Law is a system of rules that people or governments develop in order to deal with issues such as crime, business agreements and family relationships. When disputes arise, the law provides a way to resolve them peacefully and fairly. It also ensures that everybody is treated the same. For example, if two people claim the same piece of land, the courts can decide who is the owner. The law also covers other areas of our daily lives such as air and space travel, banking and taxation.
Different societies have different laws and different views about what they should contain. In addition, the precise definition of law has been subject to long debate.
Some views of law focus on its role in governing individuals and societies, while others consider it to be a set of principles that guide behaviour. Some legal scholars see it as an important tool for ensuring that social systems are fair, democratic and just, while others have doubts about its ability to achieve these goals.
Some approaches to law seek to establish it as a set of rules that regulates behaviour and enforces them through sanctions if they are broken. Other philosophers take a more ontological view of law, seeing it as an immanent and probabilistic process that is part of our everyday experience. For example, Holmes argues that the act of observer-participancy – the participant assigning true or false values to mathematically undecidable propositions – forms the building block of law, and that as this process flows, it redefines what we are observing (hence ‘law’). This approach is not without its critics, however.