Law is a complex and diverse subject, covering a wide range of issues in society. Its complexity provides a rich source of study for academics interested in legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. It has a strong societal impact and is an essential element of people’s daily lives. For example, a law states that drivers must wear seatbelts or that it is against the law to play loud music late at night. Law can also be a constraint on social freedom and a means of protecting individuals’ rights and liberties from exploitation by others. It can be a source of controversy and debate.
A key idea in law is that it should be objective and impartial. The modern judicial community, in particular, strives for objectivity, and the formal requirement that laws be general (rather than aimed at specific individuals) is an important feature of this.
However, a purely objective and neutral law would be no good at all, since human affairs are essentially a chaotic mess, and it is impossible to predict outcomes or impose a stable structure upon them. To deal with this, the law must be grounded in real-world experience and the participants’ probabilistic judgments about expected outcomes, which is what Holmes called ‘experience’, and which is a fundamental building block of law as we know it. This is why there are so few living cultures that rely on a non-modern concept of law. Those that do tend to have a unified concept of law, rather than one that divides reality into ‘natural’ and ‘human’, or between observations and the observer’s interpretations of them.