According to Merriam Webster Online, law is "a binding custom or practice of a community; a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognised as binding or enforced by a controlling authority." The role and function of law is to maintain peace, personal freedom and social justice
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The Code of Hammurabi dates back to about 2500 B.C. and is a body of written law arranged by subject, covering such topics as capital offences, family law and contracts. The Torah, or Old Testament laws, were written around 1400 B.C and contain moral and civil regulations employed by the Israelites and later by Christians. The Greeks developed civil laws and laws relating to their constitution. Roman law was influenced by the Greek but added to it as circumstances changed.
Law functions to maintain social control and protects public order by resolving disputes in a peaceful manner. Laws also facilitate orderly change by spelling out acceptable processes for instituting change. Constitutional laws outline what governments can and cannot do.
St. Thomas Aquinas and William Blackstone supported the Natural Law theory, which postulates that laws are derived from God's moral law and that human beings make good laws to whatever extent they follow this. Laws contrary to God's natural laws are therefore invalid. Opposed to the theory of Natural Law is Legal Positivism, which contends that legal validity depends on social facts, that these social facts and conventions are sufficient grounds for validity and that there is no overlap between religious morality and law. Legal Realism emphasised the role of judges in creating law through their decisions, which are influenced by political and moral intuition more than the letter of the law.
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