The Philosophy of Law


Law is a system of rules created by the state that forms a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If these rules are broken, sanctions can be imposed. The laws are usually enforced by mechanisms like police and courts. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. The philosophy of law is a complex subject and has been explored by a number of writers.

A person who studies and argues the rules of law is called a lawyer, jurist or attorney. There are two types of lawyers, transactional attorneys who write contracts and litigators who argue cases in court. In general, they use the law to help people get their rights and property back after a dispute.

Some of the most important goals that laws achieve are to protect the safety and well-being of people, provide a fair and equitable environment for commerce, preserve family and individual rights, provide an orderly social change, and ensure justice. Some legal systems do a better job than others of meeting these goals. For example, an authoritarian government that keeps the peace and maintains the status quo may also oppress minorities or prevent democratic changes.

Different legal systems are based on different traditions and cultures. Some of these traditions have more influence on the law than others. For instance, the civil law tradition is largely influenced by continental European nations and is found in Africa and Asia, but it is not the sole legal system on those continents.

The law also depends on the political landscape and the way that power is distributed. For instance, a military dictatorship may have the ability to keep the peace and maintain stability in its territory, but it may lack the capacity to hold its leaders accountable for crimes committed. Likewise, an army of bureaucrats might have great control over the daily lives of ordinary citizens but it may lack the ability to respond to complaints quickly and fairly.

While there are a wide variety of laws, there are some that have broad applications to all of society. For example, property law deals with a person’s right to own or rent homes and land (real estate) as well as objects such as cars and furniture (personal property). Tort laws cover compensation for a person who is hurt in an accident or whose reputation is defamed.

Other laws are more specific to groups of people, for example, laws that apply to children and young adults or laws that pertain to driving. Still, these are largely regulated by federal or state statutes and often rely on common-law principles. Other examples of specific legal areas include medical jurisprudence, physician-patient privilege, and chapter 7 debtor’s rights. These laws may be changed or enacted by the legislature or by the court.