Law is a set of rules that governs the conduct of people, businesses, and societies. It includes laws about crime, business, social relationships, property, and finance.
The word “law” is derived from the Latin phrase legare, meaning to bind or impel, to force upon someone. It can refer to laws that are enacted by governments or governments’ courts, or to a system of customs and traditions that govern a certain territory (such as the laws of Greece and Rome).
A law is an expression of a consistent reality that imposes a normative order on the universe. For example, Boyle’s law states that “Every metal affected by fire must turn hot”.
Another form of a law is an ‘intentional statement’, or the “law of the land,” which describes what can happen and what cannot. Examples of such “intentional statements” include the laws of property, contracts, and civil rights.
Some laws are “normative” in the sense that they explain what must happen but do not describe why it is so. For example, the “law of the land” in the United States states that anyone may own property but not build houses on it.
Other forms of laws are ‘non-normative’ in the sense that they describe how things work but do not specify what must occur. For example, the law of gravity explains how matter travels through space but does not indicate why it does so.
These forms of laws can be called “natural” or “naturalized.” The latter is a more precise definition, as naturalization implies that the law is not an unchanging rule.
Legal systems vary greatly by region, but generally consist of a set of standardized codes created by legislatures and used by judges in the interpretation of facts in a particular case. These standardized codes make it easier for judges to determine whether a case is within the bounds of law and help reduce judicial bias.
Law is often divided into three distinct categories: criminal, civil, and public law. Civil law originates in continental Europe and is present in many nations worldwide. It is the foundation of most modern legal systems.
The term civil law is used to distinguish the civilian legal system from other legal traditions such as common law and Islamic law. In mixed jurisdictions, the two may coexist.
Civil law can be split into a number of categories, including contract law, employment law, intellectual property law, and consumer law. It is also used to define specific areas of regulation such as competition law and antitrust law, which are used to control the activities of businesses that threaten the market for goods and services.
Other types of laws include administrative law, which deals with government regulations and the organization of public services; intellectual property law, which regulates the ownership and use of copyrighted works; and regulatory and criminal law, which regulates the actions of governments.
In some religions, the word of God is considered authoritative for legal purposes, as a source of law and jurisprudence. This can be expressed by the Jewish Halakha and Christian canon law, as well as by the Islamic Sharia and Fiqh.