A blupete Essay

Definition of Law, Part 4 to blupete's Essay
"The Law"

Is it not my design, at this place, to show what stands as law; but, rather my aim is to develop ideas on what law is.6 Law is a "rule of conduct imposed by authority. ... The body of rules, whether proceeding from formal enactment or from custom, which a particular state or community recognizes as binding on its members or subjects." Upon considering this definition (OED), the first question that arises, is: "On whose authority?" Prior to the 18th century it was on the authority of a divinely appointed king; during the 18th and 19th centuries in England it was on the authority of the landed aristocracy;7 in the 20th century it has been the people, in fact, I submit, the politicians who "manage" to get themselves elected8; now, as we enter the 21st century, it's hard to say whose in charge, maybe no one, and maybe, that's the way it ought to be.

In considering the definition of law, we turn, once again to John Locke, 1690: "Law, in its proper Notion, is the Direction of a free and intelligent Agent to his proper Interest."9 "Proper Notion"? "Proper Interest"? What do you suppose Dr. Locke meant by this. My idea, is, that a proper Notion of law is that kind of law which comes from no human authority, other than from the individual person who is bound to follow it; it is the law that each of us carries around in our breast. A law is a rule which each of us, as a free and intelligent agent, will obey, because we fear the punishment that may come in the breaking of such law, and, by as much or more, because we fear the loss of respect from family and acquaintances. The "Proper Notion" of law is that it is found within a person, himself or herself; it is not imposed externally; in such a notion of law, there is absolutely no curtailment of that essential ingredient of life: "freedom." The "Proper Notion" of law is that it is an ideal necessarily given in the form of a precept, which we ought to follow.

For a further development of these ideas, it will be necessary for a person to understand that there are two basic kinds of law: one is scientific, or natural law; the other is a rule (or set of rules), apart from a natural law, which society prescribes for itself.


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[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]
[Subject Index]
Peter Landry

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