What is Law?

Law is a system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It may also refer to the people who work in this system.


Law can be defined in many ways, but one way to describe it is as a rule of consistent reality. A law can be proven or hypothetical, sanctioned or unsanctioned, true or mythical, harmonious or antagonistic.

The most general definition of law is a system of rules that a country or community recognizes as regulating its members’ actions, and which it may enforce by penalties. This is sometimes referred to as ‘civil law’, or ‘public law’.

Normatively, it is typically seen as reflecting natural rights, that is, moral rights that are not dependent on enforcement, social convention or recognition; a view rooted in the natural law tradition.

A second, often more controversial, approach to law is the Will Theory of rights (Feinberg 1970; 1980; 1992; Darwall 2006: 18-19; 2007). This argues that rights provide right-holders with a measure of normative control over others and themselves.

This theory also fits with Hohfeldian privileges, providing right-holders with options for how they may choose to act or to exercise their powers. It also explains why claim-rights and immunities function to protect rights and privileges. It likewise argues that rights and duties can be justifiable correlatively, that is, from rights to duties or from duties to rights.

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