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What is Law

Concept, conception, and notion, imply a general idea of what should be, but concept suggests an idea typical of a class. The concept of law signifies what law is. It is difficult to reply to the question: what is law? Persons of different vocations and of different status understand and answer it from their own viewpoints. A thinker, a philosopher, a religious-minded person, an artist, a lawyer, a judge, and a doctor all try to reply from their own point of view. This is but according to one own perception and thinking.

However, the law is not a physical object that can be defined easily. It is related to a number of situations. To know what is law, therefore, the law has to be described. And a definition of law again may be either in terms of a judicial process in terms of its purpose or in terms of a social fact. As Paton, quoting Lery-Ullmann says, a definition of law should have two aims: firstly to make precise the meaning of the law and secondly, to call up in the mind of the reader a true picture of law and its operation.

The existence of law presupposes a community. Implicit in the notion of community is the acceptance of a set of values dealing with the fundamental issues on which the existence of that society depends. There must be an agreement because otherwise, men cannot act together effectively. The community after reaching a certain stage of development sets up a legal order which determines the methods used by the most strongly organized section in order to affect their ends. Law is never ideal justice, but human justice defined by those who control the machine. What ends law has served is a question for legal history: what ends it should serve is a question for legal philosophy.

Law has thus two sides: from one side it is an abstract body of rules, from the other it is a social process for compromising the conflicting interests of men.