Law is a set of principles and regulations established by some authority and applied to members of a community or group in order to maintain social order. It can be written or unwritten, statutory or customary. Laws are typically based on human reason or divine commands and are subject to change as society changes. They may also be codified or uncodified, depending on the specific legal system in question. The study of law is called jurisprudence and includes both philosophy, sociology, political science, and history.
In modern times, laws are often formulated through legislation by the government, with the help of professional advisors and public debate. However, the law is also influenced by many other factors, including economics and culture, and can vary from place to place and over time.
A legal dictionary defines law as “a system of rules and principles governing a country or community.” The laws of a society can be derived from religious precepts, historical precedent, natural justice, utilitarianism, the principle of least harm or the will of a god (for example, the command to avoid adultery). Similarly, the laws of a community can include custom and policies, or they can be created by the government through judicial decisions (for example, an act of parliament).
Nevertheless, a law must be objective, and this objective requirement has led to a number of important philosophical issues surrounding the concept of a law. For example, it is a controversial question whether the law should be interpreted in a way that is biased toward one type of person or another, and it has been suggested that this bias could result in the law being unfair (see Robertisan law).
The definition of a law must also consider whether it is fair to all persons in a community. This involves asking if the laws apply equally to rich and poor people, and whether the law provides sufficient checks on government power. It may also involve examining whether the law makes sense for the community as a whole, and how the people who make up the judicial system see their role in the context of the law.