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Schools of Jurisprudential Thought You may think that legal philosophy is far removed from the practical study of business law and the legal environment. In fact, it is not. As you will learn in the chapters of this text, how judges apply the law to spe- cific disputes, including disputes relating to the busi- ness world, depends in part on their philosophical approaches to law. Clearly, judges are not free to decide cases solely on the basis of their personal philosophical views or on their opinions about the issues before the court. A judge’s function is not to make the laws—that is the function of the legislative branch of government—but O ne of the important functions of law in any society is to provide stability,predictability,and continuity so that people can be sure of how to order their affairs.If any society is to survive,its citizens must be able to determine what is legally right and legally wrong. They must know what sanctions will be imposed on them if they commit wrongful acts.If they suffer harm as a result of others’ wrongful acts,they must know how they can seek redress.By setting forth the rights,obligations, and privileges of citizens,the law enables individuals to go about their business with confidence and a certain degree of predictability. The stability and predictability created by the law provide an essential framework for all civilized activities,including business activities. What do we mean when we speak of “the law”? Although this term has had,and will continue to have,different definitions,they are all based on a general observation: at a minimum, law consists of enforceable rules governing relationships among individuals and between individuals and their society .These “enforceable rules”may consist of unwritten principles of behavior established by a nomadic tribe. They may be set forth in a law code,such as the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon (c.1780 B . C . E .) or the law code of one of today’s European nations. They may consist of written laws and court decisions created by modern legislative and judicial bodies,as in the United States. Regardless of how such rules are created,they all have one thing in common: they establish rights, duties,and privileges that are consistent with the values and beliefs of their society or its ruling group. Those who embark on a study of law will find that these broad statements leave unanswered some important questions concerning the nature of law.Part of the study of law,often referred to as jurisprudence, involves learning about different schools of jurisprudential thought and discovering how the approaches to law characteristic of each school can affect judicial decision making. We open this introductory chapter with an examination of that topic.We then look at an important question for any student reading this text: How does the legal environment affect business decision making? We next describe the basic sources of American law, the common law tradition,and some general classifications of law.
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