What Is Law?

Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and acts as a mediator between people. Law can be broadly defined as a system of rules that the state uses to regulate behaviour and settle disputes. Law can be found in all societies and is used to make life more comfortable, more predictable and safer for everyone. Different legal systems exist around the world, and some serve their principal functions better than others.

A key aspect of law is its normative character – that is, it stipulates how people ought to behave or not, or what they may require from each other and what they must give in return. It is a feature that distinguishes it from empirical or natural science laws (like the law of gravity) and even social sciences and humanities laws.

Legal interpretation is a crucial nexus of the factual and normative aspects of law. It involves the attempt to determine the “plain meaning” of legal words in order to apply them to current situations. It is a complex task because of the ambiguities of language and the many ways in which legal concepts can be applied to new circumstances.

One of the most popular theories about the role of law is called textualism. This view states that the “plain meaning” of a word is the meaning it would have to a reasonable person in the context of the situation in which it is being applied. It is the theory that underlies most common law legal systems, which put court decisions on equal footing with statutes enacted through legislative process and regulations issued by executive bodies.

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