Philosophy of Law – The Nature of Law


Law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. For example, property law involves settling disputes over ownership of goods and property, tort law involves claims for compensation when one person or thing is injured by the actions of another, and criminal law deals with offenses against public order (e.g., robbery or defamation). Laws also govern such areas as aviation law, banking law, criminal procedure, labour law, maritime law and medical jurisprudence.

The nature of law has been a central area of debate in the philosophy of jurisprudence. Some philosophers have argued that the normativity of law lies in its coercive aspect, while others, particularly legal positivists, have denied that this is the case.

Another question concerns the methodological status of jurisprudential inquiry. Some philosophers argue that jurisprudential investigations are similar to those in other disciplines, such as metaphysics or logic, while others argue that they are not. It is difficult to determine whether the investigation of an abstract object like the concept of law can be done, since it depends on human beliefs and attitudes that are inevitably subject to change over time.

One group of views sees jurisprudence as an instance of conceptual analysis, analogous to the inquiry into the concepts of mathematics or philosophy of language. But it is doubtful that this sort of investigation can uncover a thin concept of law that all legal practitioners share—or, for that matter, whether it even makes sense to talk about such a concept at all.

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