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What is law?

Source: licencja: CC 0.

Link to the lesson

Before you start you should know
  • You are able to present the mechanisms of exercising political power.

  • You are able to explain the rule of law, and how an individual may demand respect for his rights.

You will learn
  • You will be able to explain what law is, and how it differs from other normative systems (traditional, moral, religious).

  • You will be able to present the basic functions of law.

  • You will be able to analyze the general legal principles.

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nagranie abstraktu

Formulating an unambiguousunambiguousunambiguous definition of law is not a simple task. The disputeto disputedispute over “what law is”, based on philosophy and legal theory, dates back toto date back todates back to ancient times. In the formal sense, law is a system of norms, characterized by specific featuresfeaturefeatures, in force in a given territory. This system is:

  • hierarchical – legal norms remain in relation to each other (supremacysupremacysupremacy and subordinationsubordinationsubordination),

  • cohesivecohesivecohesive (consistentconsistentconsistent) – there are no contradictingcontradictingcontradicting norms within the system,

  • complete – regulating all aspects of social life.

Tatiana Chauvin, Tomasz Stawecki, Piotr Winczorek Introduction to jurisprudence (Wstęp do prawoznawstwa)

[Law] – „a set of rules established or recognized by the appropriate organs of the state, the observance of which is ensured in the last resortin the last resortin the last resort due to state coercionstate coercionstate coercion.”

wst Source: Tatiana Chauvin, Tomasz Stawecki, Piotr Winczorek, Introduction to jurisprudence (Wstęp do prawoznawstwa), Warszawa 2017, s. 17.

The essence of the law is to determine the permittedpermittedpermitted, prohibitedprohibitedprohibited or prescribedprescribedprescribed behaviors, and the situations in which state coercion may legally be applied. The law was and remains the basic instrument of policy implementation. Nowadays, it regulates practically all areas of social activity, enabling solving conflicts between individuals and social groups.

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Symbol paragrafu na tle wybrukowanej ulicy. Na fotografii umieszczono następujące informacje: 1. Natural law Certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature, endowed by nature (or God for example). These rights can be understood universally through human reason, and exist independently of human understanding and the (positive) law of a given state, political order, legislature or society. Natural law is binding regardless of being recognized by a state. The law created by state authorities should mirror the natural law. 2. Legal positivism The source of law is the establishment of that law by some socially recognised legal authority, legitimised to apply coercion to enforce the law. The “merits” of a law are irrelevant - it may be a “bad law”, but if it was added to the system by a legitimate authority, it is still a law and should be observed. 3. Legal realism Jurisprudence should emulate the methods of natural science, i.e. rely on empirical evidence. Hypotheses have to be tested against observations of the world. In other words, the behaviours of individuals and the decisions of courts should be observed, because the patterns that can be established thanks to such observation are the “real” law.
Basic concepts of law
Source: licencja: CC 0.

The law is not the only normative system regulating people's behavior. Moral, religious and traditional norms play the same role.

  • Moral norms concern behaviors, attitudes and intentions that are evaluated from the point of view of such values as goodness, equityequityequity, justice. Establishing an exhaustiveexhaustiveexhaustive list of moral norms accepted by all members of a given community is very difficult, if not impossible;

  • Religious norms are bindingbindingbinding for the followersfollowerfollowers of a particular religion, justified by reference to God (absolute);

  • Traditional norms regulate forms of behavior, shaped by tradition and habitshabithabits, adopted in a given community in a specific historical epoch.

The legal norms often mirrorto mirrormirror other (moral, religious or traditional) norms functioning in the society, because then they are more likelylikelylikely to be observed. However, it is also possible for the law to contradictto contradictcontradict other normative systems.

Functions of the law:

  • stability – maintenancemaintenancemaintenance of the social, economic and political order in society

  • protection – ensuring the observance of selected values, as well as the rights and freedoms of an individual,

  • organisation – creating institutions to satisfyto satisfysatisfy basic needs of society,

  • repression – punishment of infringementsinfringementinfringements,

  • control – establishment of standards of behaviour to make them more predictablepredictablepredictable in order to increase the social sense of security,

  • distribution – ensuring fair distribution of social benefits and burdenburdenburden among the members of the community,

  • regulation – creation of mechanism and procedures to resolve disputesto resolve (disputes)resolve disputes between individuals.

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Exercise 1
Wybierz jedno nowe słowo poznane podczas dzisiejszej lekcji i ułóż z nim zdanie.

From the beginning of the existence of states, the law is one of the most important instruments of exercising power. In the last three centuries, the importance of law in public life has increased.

First of all, the law‑making process has been democratized. The universality of electoral rights and the development of forms of political participation other than representative democracy means that the circle of citizens participating in the law‑making process or influencing this process has grown significantly.

Secondly, we deal with the process of iuridisation of social life, which means, on the one hand, broadening the sphere regulated by law, and on the other hand limiting the meaning of other normative systems (traditional, moral or religious norms).

Thirdly, the principle of rule of law has become more widespreadwidespreadwidespread, meaning that the law governs the functioning of the institutions of power and limits the freedom of political decision making.

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Exercise 2
Ćwiczenie alternatywne: Listen to the abstract recording to review the material and new vocabulary. Explain the meaning of following words: to dispute; to date back to; jurisprudence; in the last resort; state coercion; to resolve (disputes); retroactively; presumption. If it's too difficult, use lesson's glossary.

Keywords

law, natural/positive law, legal positivism, legal realism, moral/religious/traditional norms, functions of the law, general legal principles, iuridisation, rule of law

Glossary

unambiguous
unambiguous
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Nagranie słówka: unambiguous

jednoznaczny

to dispute
to dispute
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Nagranie słówka: to dispute

spierać się

to date back to
to date back to
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Nagranie słówka: to date back to

sięgać, pochodzić z

feature
feature
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Nagranie słówka: feature

cecha

supremacy
supremacy
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Nagranie słówka: supremacy

zwierzchnictwo

subordination
subordination
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Nagranie słówka: subordination

podporządkowanie

cohesive
cohesive
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Nagranie słówka: cohesive

spójny

consistent
consistent
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Nagranie słówka: consistent

zgodny

contradicting
contradicting
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Nagranie słówka: contradicting

sprzeczne

jurisprudence
jurisprudence
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Nagranie słówka: jurisprudence

prawoznawstwo

in the last resort
in the last resort
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Nagranie słówka: in the last resort

w ostateczności

state coercion
state coercion
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Nagranie słówka: state coercion

przymus państwowy

permitted
permitted
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Nagranie słówka: permitted

dozwolony

prohibited
prohibited
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Nagranie słówka: prohibited

zakazany

prescribed
prescribed
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Nagranie słówka: prescribed

nakazany

by virtue of
by virtue of
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Nagranie słówka: by virtue of

na mocy

endowed by
endowed by
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Nagranie słówka: endowed by

obdarowany przez

binding
binding
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Nagranie słówka: binding

wiążący

to mirror
to mirror
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Nagranie słówka: to mirror

odzwierciedlać

to enforce
to enforce
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Nagranie słówka: to enforce

egzekwować, wymuszać

merit
merit
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Nagranie słówka: merit

zaleta

irrelevant
irrelevant
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Nagranie słówka: irrelevant

nieistotny, bez znaczenia

to emulate
to emulate
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Nagranie słówka: to emulate

naśladować

to rely on
to rely on
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Nagranie słówka: to rely on

polegać na

empirical evidence
empirical evidence
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Nagranie słówka: empirical evidence

dowody empiryczne

pattern
pattern
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Nagranie słówka: pattern

wzorzec

equity
equity
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Nagranie słówka: equity

sprawiedliwość (podziału dóbr)

exhaustive
exhaustive
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Nagranie słówka: exhaustive

wyczerpujący

follower
follower
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Nagranie słówka: follower

wyznawca

habit
habit
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Nagranie słówka: habit

zwyczaj

likely
likely
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Nagranie słówka: likely

prawdopodobny

to contradict
to contradict
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Nagranie słówka: to contradict

zaprzeczać

maintenance
maintenance
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Nagranie słówka: maintenance

utrzymanie, zachowanie

to satisfy
to satisfy
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Nagranie słówka: to satisfy

zaspokajać

infringement
infringement
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Nagranie słówka: infringement

naruszenie (prawa)

predictable
predictable
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Nagranie słówka: predictable

przewidywalny

burden
burden
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Nagranie słówka: burden

ciężar

to resolve (disputes)
to resolve (disputes)
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Nagranie słówka: to resolve (disputes)

rozwiązywać (spory)

retroactively
retroactively
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Nagranie słówka: retroactively

z mocą wsteczną

presumption
presumption
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Nagranie słówka: presumption

domniemanie

to be considered
to be considered
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Nagranie słówka: to be considered

być uważanym

innocent
innocent
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Nagranie słówka: innocent

niewinny

prosecuted
prosecuted
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Nagranie słówka: prosecuted

ścigany

harmful
harmful
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Nagranie słówka: harmful

szkodliwy

widespread
widespread
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Nagranie słówka: widespread

rozpowszechniony

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