The Definition of Law


Law is a set of rules that regulate human behavior and are enforced by social and governmental institutions. The precise definition of law is controversial, but various schools of thought view it as a science, an art, or a combination of all three. In any event, law is an essential part of a democratic society.

Modern legal pragmatists

Legal pragmatism is a new school of legal philosophy that tries to avoid the serious philosophical errors of the traditional model of law. The traditional model of law justifies law by claiming that it has immutable and eternal foundations. Legal pragmatists reject this idea and reject the idea of transcendental foundations. The origins of legal pragmatism are complex, but they can be summed up in two stages. The first stage is called critical pragmatism, and it challenges the legitimacy of the traditional model of law.


Positivists in law disagree about the scope of judicial discretion. A positivist model of judicial discretion would require courts to reassess cases that have been decided long ago. This would be in direct conflict with the principle of democracy, which requires that judges act in accordance with the will of the governed. A positivist view also would encompass matters of ‘policy,’ which would be properly the domain of the legislative branch.


Law for naturalists defend a classical view of the law, one that allows for a substantial role for humans in lawmaking. They assert that law must encompass all moral principles, but they admit that human discretion should be used in lawmaking.

Formal/procedural ideals

While formal equality is an important goal of law, procedural justice must also be a central concern. The goal of procedural justice is to achieve substantive equality between parties, ensuring fairness and speed in each proceeding. However, procedural justice often comes at a cost. The key is to balance procedural and substantive equality, and to make sure both are working together.

Norms available as public knowledge

Norms are social rules governing behavior within groups and societies. They are studied by sociologists, economists, and anthropologists. The social rules of a group are often considered more efficient than legal rules, as they can provide signaling mechanisms without cost.

Accessibility of law to ordinary people

The rule of law is an important aspect of a democratic society, but it is also essential to ensure that it is accessible to the general public. Access to law is important because it ensures that people are treated equally before the law. Often, people will need professional help if they are unsure about a particular issue.

Functions of law

Law has many functions, ranging from the protection of individuals from unlawful acts to the regulation of human relationships. In addition, it helps to settle disputes between people. It also protects society by establishing norms for private arrangements. For instance, a contract law can govern the behavior of parties to a contract.