An Introduction to Law and Legal Theory


Law is a system of rules that a particular society or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It can be created and enforced by a state or social institution, or by private individuals.

Generally, laws are made by legislative bodies or the executive, and then are arranged in statutes (written by Congress), regulations, or by judicial decision, typically in common law jurisdictions. Federal laws are bills that have passed both houses of Congress, and been signed by the president; state laws may be enacted or passed over the president’s veto; and local law is established through municipal ordinances and court precedent.

Some types of laws are primarily administrative in nature, such as laws dealing with public health and safety. Others are purely legal in nature, such as contracts and property laws.

The main purpose of law is to protect and serve its citizens, but it also affects many aspects of daily life. It covers a wide variety of fields, including censorship, criminal law, police, military law, and public education.

Legal theory provides the framework for understanding law and its application. It involves the study of law in relation to a wider field or discipline, such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, or economics.

A key aspect of legal theory is the concept of justification, which means that a rule or principle of law is based on a more general moral norm. For example, the rule “every person has a right in his good name” is justified by a more general rule such as “every person is a moral agent.”

Another aspect of legal theory is the study of how legal rights arise. This is usually done by examining the ways in which a right-holder can exercise his right.

There are two ways in which a right-holder can do this: he may either directly bestow the right, or he may indirectly create it by establishing conditions that make the rights legitimate.

Some examples of ways in which a right-holder can bestow the right are gifts, consents, appointments, and last wills and testaments. Other ways include establishing the rule that the right is constitutive of other rights.

A third way to bestow a right is by establishing a statutory or judicial ruling that the right is valid, as long as the rights are not violated. In civil law legal systems, this is often done through legal syllogism, while in common law legal systems it is more usual to use analogy or argumentative theories of interpretation.

The idea of legal justification is controversial and subject to debate among philosophers, although a significant body of work has been developed to describe the various ways in which we might justify a right. There are two types of legal justification: the first is a direct grounding of a right on the basis of legal norms, such as equality; the second involves an indirect grounding of a right on the basis on the morality of the act in question, such as an ethical duty to do something or to not do something.