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-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Source of Law

Throughout the millenia, philosophers and jurists have pondered the question: From whence cometh Law? I'm not talking about "where did this statute/case/regulation come from?"; I'm talking about the metaphysical concept of "law". Does it emanate from a Supreme Diety (or a pantheon of dieties)? Does it flow from Nature? Does it derive from the caprice of the sovereign or the consent of the governed or the will of the majority? Does it issue from Man's desire for Order, or from his lust for Control? Does it proceed from Reason or Power or Fear or Mercy?

My favorite account comes from the great American wit Ambrose Bierce:
Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. "There is one favor that I should like to ask," said he.

"Name it."

"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws."

"What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul—you ask for the right to make his laws?"

"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself."

It was so ordered.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary 139-40 (1911) (definition of "Satan").

1 comment:

  1. The addition of a little Ambrose Bierce to your recipe can produce a delightful dialogue.

    ReplyDelete