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What is a law?

  1. May 23, 2005 #1
    I'm fairly sure this topic belongs in the Philosophy section but I'm not sure which sub-category it would apply to within Philosophy so I'm going with General Philosophy because Law and Laws are a rather general concept in that they appear to apply to so many different curcumstances.

    Please explain your own personal definition of what makes a law a law. This explaination can describe what makes a law of physics a law, what makes a traffic law a law or other. Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2005 #2
    Laws is made my authorities (in vague sense of a meaning, either delegated or self-appointed). Rules of interaction between subjects.

    Example: you and i (or any number of ppl but the smaller the easier the concept i guess) end up on an island without anything. (Based upon if we know each other or if blood relationship is involved, ie. emotional involvement) we have to survive and live our lifes till the end.

    We have to establish laws between each other (many will be implied based upon age, knowledge [in this case and in early times of survival], and our emotional states). The more ppl we add to this the more complicated it gets so we may have to have written laws. Ideally, written law is enough but in reality we would need a punishment scale (ie. rejection from comunity for example) for breaking the laws of the comunity. Of cause it will get more complicated but on the basic sense this is law. (social at least ) i think.
  4. May 23, 2005 #3


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    And to add to sneez, a physical law would best be defined as how two physical objects interact. These laws cannot be broken however.
  5. May 23, 2005 #4
    The Law is whatever my wife says it is!
  6. May 24, 2005 #5
    Rule of interaction between subjects is a good description of a law.

    Lord of the Flies is a good example how some laws evolve when the responsiblity of the laws evolution is left up to kids, 10 years and younger, who are alone on an island for a length of time. There is the social survival as well as the physical survival laws that begin to form. In the case of the book, Lord of the Flies, the social survival laws were dominant to the physcial survival laws. Kids don't seem to be able to see beyond a few minutes into the future and so don't develop specific, long term plans ie. laws with regard to physical survival. Yet, socially, laws regarding heirarchy develop practically within a few minutes.

    Is there no law that can be extracted from just one subject matter? Solo? Or must there always be two or more interacting elements that help to form laws....... at least.... form laws that we are able to discern and observe?

    Laws of Physics tend, for the most part, to describe reactions between <1 forces and/or elements. This holds true in General Relativity but does it hold true in the quantum theories? I mean, the law of gravity relies on mass and less mass, so, it sounds like a law describing a single force but in reality, to observe the law we need more than one element.

    What are some of the quantum laws?
    Last edited: May 24, 2005
  7. May 25, 2005 #6


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    What you need to observe case of a law is not the same thing as what you need to specify the law itself. This is again the question of boundary/initial conditions.

    For example the law of conservation of energy says that in every interaction, the total energy of all components before the interaction is equal to the total energy of all components after. Even if the two sets of components are not the same, as in a chemical reaction. So to test or observe the law you need some interaction, which could be anything at all, since the law is general. So the simple law requires complicated systems in order to observe it.
  8. May 26, 2005 #7
    So, in the law of conservation of energy the amount of energy per individual component isn't important, its the combined amount of energy that is observed to remain unchanged before and after interaction. Therefore, the law applies to one component but can only be observed when you have a) energy and b) various components to observe.

    There is still a requirement of more than one component in this case and I wonder if this applies in Quantum laws or if there are less complex requirements in Quantum law, if there is such a thing.(?) Thank you.
  9. May 26, 2005 #8
    "Is there no law that can be extracted from just one subject matter? Solo? "

    From social point of view. One subject is leader to himself. It means if you are alone on the islan with literaly nothing than there is not social laws for you.

    Any community needs a leader. That is 2 or more subjects forms a comunity. The leader is either delgated or self appointed. This can be done implicitly or explicitly and by external cause or as a decision among the subjects.

    Example: A president appoints an army general. Than it goes down the ladder up untill individual soldiers. When those soldiers are deprived of a selected leader (either killed or no longer able to lead) they will naturally follow the best of them [in knowledge of the survival, environment, experience and ultimatelly physical ability). (i assume life threatening situation due to the fact that humans apply egoistic desires to lead while they pursue other agenda than that of community in normal situations)

  10. May 26, 2005 #9
    I see where your going with this. One person on and island, alone must, by standard of health and welfare, adhere to certain laws of hygene, and so on, to survive. This would examplify the laws of a society of one. Most of the rudimentary laws found in human society have to do with hygene, non-infringment and respect. These laws can be and to a large degree, must be observed even when one is alone or survival as a physical being will be short lived.

    I see now (doh!) where self adjoint was going with siting the law of energy conservation. Since it is gererally accepted that this universe is a product of energy or, at least, energy itself, the law of energy conservation tends to lean toward being a law that involves only one component (since that is all this universe is made of.)

    There are two problems that come to mind with this conservation law with only a single component (energy).

    1. "Observation" requires more than one component or at least the illusion of more than one component to occur.

    2. To be able to say that the law of energey conservation describes that energy cannot be created or destroyed suggests two or more components ie: creation and destruction. To test the theory that energy can neither be created or destroyed, one must be able to observe creation and/or destruction as it occurs within their parameters of belief.

    Laws of Quantum Reality: I'm out on a limb here because my study has been limited in the area of Quantum Physics or Quantum theory. Here's what I have for now.

    Quantum Laws (hypothetical)

    1. The law of simultaniety: Everything and nothing is happening at the same time. Everything and nothing is everywhere on every scale simultaniously.

    2. The law of the power of observing quantum activity: the observation of quantum characteristics yeilds unreliable results. Therefore there can be no observation of quantum activity but only of the results, after the fact.

    3. Law of experientialism: this is the only way to understand or "know" a quantum effect. It must be experienced, not observed.

    Please feel free to steer me out of my delusionary state concerning this topic!
  11. May 27, 2005 #10
    For humans before Law it was survival of the fittest, but the law takes humans in the opposite direction.
  12. May 27, 2005 #11
    "One person on and island, alone must, by standard of health and welfare, adhere to certain laws of hygene, and so on, to survive. This would examplify the laws of a society of one. "

    I think that is not society of one. One is individual. Lets note that higiene came from law (religious law) . Higience for sake of higiene did not exists until rituals of purification started and than it evolved. I agree with you that nowadays we would keep some basic laws of higiene if we were to end up on the island by ourselfs. But thats not social law that is binding on us. Its just custom. Or do you punish yourself for not obeying this law ?

    Respect and all the other attributes are possible only in communite of at least 2. Even self-respect could not develop if one was alone. Its a measure to something else.

    IF you saw a movie with tom hanks when he ends up on the island by himself. He introduced another subject (a ball) with which he developed relationship. Human being cannot survive alone! We are social creatures and as such we developed laws.

    "For humans before Law it was survival of the fittest, but the law takes humans in the opposite direction"

    how is that?
    Last edited: May 27, 2005
  13. May 28, 2005 #12
    I think religion is the most premitive form of law ( or undocumented law ).
  14. May 28, 2005 #13
    law is a boundary for freedom, the consraint that preserves free people together. currently, the majority of human beings, when given freedom, become uncontrollable, the principle of "i do this stuff in the current situation, and i give you freedom in making your choice in the same situation" leads to unpredictable consequences. a law makes people co-exist together, with a huge profit for the ones at the top - the ones who make the law.
    people like when they control someone. when a human is under control - he is not dangerous. but the real HUMAN is the one who controls himself himself.
  15. May 28, 2005 #14
    "I think religion is the most premitive form of law ( or undocumented law )."

    Thats a subject to discussion but without religion there would be no law at all. All law descend from religon or if you will from when the local tribe shaman gave orders etc.

    Hygiene by research is here due to religion . Purification of the body is referred to as physical cleanliness while that of the Heart is known as Mental cleanliness. These are just the two types of purification in existence.Water is among the most universal of religious symbols. Whether as rain, sea, pool, or flood, water's life-giving and cleansing nature have made it a rich symbolic vehicle for ideas about spiritual cleansing, rebirth, eternal life, and so on. Immersions in pools of water or rivers for purposes of spiritual cleansing and renewal are known throughout the world’s religions and often predate the emergence of the monotheistic religions.

    Christian baptism has its roots in Jewish practices that originated in rules from the biblical Book of Leviticus. A key assumption of that book is that contact with death, blood, certain bodily fluids, certain kinds of animals, certain types of skin ailments, and so on convey to men and women a condition of uncleanness. This uncleanness is not “dirt” from a hygienic point of view. Rather, it is a pollutant that renders a person incapable of approaching the place of divine worship until the pollutant is removed by a ritual rinsing of the body.

    In postbiblical times, the custom emerged among Jews to use immersion pools for the purpose of such ritual cleansing. Special cisterns have been found throughout Israel that were constructed for such immersion. Those entering these pools in states of uncleanness emerged in purity. They could then make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem and enter it to offer sacrifices.

    Christian baptism descends from this Jewish idea of cleansing. Ancient Jews had already begun to see moral flaw as a pollutant that could be washed away through immersion. Among early Christians, baptism was seen as an act of penitence that cleansed a person from former sins. More importantly, it came to be seen as a ritual that transformed a person's relationship to God by conducting one into the community of those saved by the sacrifice of God's son. Thus, in Christianity, the cleansing power of water comes to represent the capacity of the soul to be purged of sin and death and to be purified and transformed into a being awaiting eternal life.

    FOr 0.0.0. Any community of 2 or more ppl will select a leader who will either explicitly or implicitly make rules due to his position. There is no way out of it.
  16. May 28, 2005 #15
    May i ask what happens if in the community of much more that 2 people there suddenly appear two or more nearly-same-level-leaders?
  17. May 28, 2005 #16
    That depends of ideology one follows. When we introduce large community (nation) it becomes more difficult, however, in optimal condition ppl will select their leader who is most qualified for their aims.

    You see its desires that ppl apply into leadership. There is not condition as 2 exact the same qualified leaders. This would require a long post and its straying away from the intial question. If they are nearly it means one is the best suited for the job. ANd the rest of those nearly should recognize him if thats their objective to lead the community. If their objective is to promote thier own agenda or to get fame or whatever than the confusion begins.

  18. May 28, 2005 #17
    you're right!
  19. May 30, 2005 #18
    I think what I would like to see happen here, and I will provide examples at some point, ist some laws in society that are metaphors or are actual fractals of physical law. Like oil on water resembling how oil really doesn't ethically or logically belong at the centre of all human endevours. Humans are comprised of over 90% water. Oil is 100% oil. Not a good mix. In fact, matching laws of ethics to physical laws would be more what I'm after. I have a feeling these will be laws in GR rather than the more esoteric laws of QM or MT or what have you.

    As for the laws of hygene. These are dependant upon physical laws and how physical laws, for the most part, effect our corporeal bodies. Osmosis, infection, immunization and so forth. All of them require an understanding of physics, chemistry, anatomy and so on.
  20. May 30, 2005 #19


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    Well, to bring your desires down to traditional philosophy concerns, let me mention Hume, who said that you can't get a statement of "ought" from any combination of statements of "is". Many science-oriented people believe the non-human universe is amoral and doesn't care about our ethical categories or feelings. The rain falls on the just and unjust. So you are not going to get a physical law that upholds your political/social predjudices.
  21. May 30, 2005 #20
    Personally I think if you dissect morality you will find the cause of what we now observe as a gross mutation of survival (ie: Hygenics) laws from tribes of long ago. Ethics is simply another survival technique that works for individuals as much as it does for groups and corporations.

    Doesn't physics study the methods of how this universe has survived, as a physical entity, for 13.2 billion years? Each physical law we discover in this universe describes certain functions that have become survival tips on how to grow a universe. Sort of!

    When you extrapolate and fractalize events, regardless of differences in scale or origin, you begin to see the similarities and the roots of all these laws....... be they laws of physics or laws of ethics.
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