A Final Definition of Law?

What is the best definition of Law?

When the masquerade dances, a man only sees the side that faces him. In a biological practical laboratory, a student will only see the side of the microscope turned towards him to observe. In the same manner, a dive into the wealth of the subject of law makes us see it as a concept that may be far beyond man’s comprehension and except on crucial observation, one may not find his base in it. Law is broad and as a result, legal philosophers in time past have tried to give a definition of the subject only to succeed in making definitions applicable to their own specialization on the subject. This confirms Professor A. O. Okunniga’s thoughts that:

"Nobody including the lawyer has offered, nobody including the lawyer is offering, nobody including the lawyer will ever be able to offer a definition of law to end all definitions"

Many scholars have continued in their search for an encompassing definition. It will not be totally right to call their efforts futile, but the truth is that we can only try to get something worthy of a definition after a proper study and evaluation of the theories that guide the subject. At the same time, whatsoever output as a definition will still be subject to criticism. That said, we can say that Law is in its own sense, an agent of social control, a formal mechanism for the ultimate aim of causing societal harmony and tranquility. 

Law is in its own Sense 

Into the bargain, law in its own sense could simply refer to law as relates to a discipline. This makes it worthy to stand alone and can be inferred to appear in different fields. As a result, we have law in Economics, Agriculture, Science, Engineering, Philosophy and other areas alike. Also, Law in its sense is in relation to man. This is why man comes in contact with law and applies her in regulating his operations across these fields.

Law as an Agent

Law as an agent is best described as a means to an end. It can be likened to basic production processes where agents are required for a successful relationship between the producer and the consumer. In this case, the producer can be represented by the law maker and the consumer represented by the people the law binds through its statutes, conventions and principles. Law as an agent therefore brings reasonable linkage and transfer. The positivist school of law which sees law as what it is; the command law theory (involving sanction by a superior on the inferior) and Pure theory propounded by John Austin and Hans Kelson supports this too on the grounds of norms – the basis for transfer. The Sociological school of law also poses this as it states that law should be based on facts as situate in society. It functions as an agent from age to age and from society to society, still leaving meaning and living true to itself.

Law as a means of Social Control

As one role of law is the definition and regulation of social relationship, we can boldly say that law is social control in itself. A society suffers chaos when the law is absent. As such, it is just right to delve into the role of law in society to pose a definition for it. It is thus correct to say that law is a means to ensuring social control.

Law as a formal Mechanism

The formality of law lies in its processes. Law operates via a system of formal processes, followinh protocols in organization, reason and functionality. The judicial system squarely brings out the formality in law, while the legislature backs it in formalities during the process of making the law.

Law as the Ultimate Aim of Society

The peak of thoughts and idealism for any society that seeks perfection is not to have a lawless state. Instead, the ultimate aim of society is to build a state guided properly by laws. In this, the rule of law came as an evenly developed concept to protect the integrity and interest of the state and its members.

Law as a state of Harmony and Societal Tranquility

The law loves harmony. When all societal factors that connect man come together in harmony, societal tranquility is achieved. Law is therefore a means to coordinating societal peace and order.

Conclusively, Law is critical and coming to provide a definite definition to it still looks as problematic as ever. Scholars have advised that it is best to ask or know what the law is as regards a specific case instead of an overall look into the question of “What is Law?” It makes more sense to ask “What is the Law in this case?” than asking “What is the Law?” because the former gives a more specific and accurate response while the latter throws the inquirer into the depths of law where he is likely going to find nothing.

 This Article was adapted from an Essay titled, The Definition of Law by Nelson Vincent A (2014)

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