Is Law Science?

By: Utkarsh Agarwal

A couple of days ago, I came across a question on Quora: “Is Law a science?”

It is a clichéd question with several ways to approach it. In my enthusiasm, I wrote an answer about how the facts of an individual case shape the law and there is no one fixed hypothesis that governs the functioning of law, and therefore, law is not a science.

However, upon thinking further, I feel there is something wrong with this picture, more specifically, the concept of law as fluid with ever-changing characteristics in consonance with the changes in society.

Law has changed; there is no denying that. For example, adultery laws have become much more relaxed as society has come to tolerate it. Even the fundamental laws have also undergone significant change over time such as the right to property in India went from being a fundamental right to a legal right and the right to education, right to environment, right to life with dignity all becoming a part of the fundamental right. In fact, there are innumerable instances of the Supreme Court or the High Courts altering the law through interpretation, or judicial activism.

However, all this is based on the idea of law limited to rules and regulations framed by the Government. In my opinion, we must consider Law as an objective phenomenon existing independently of society much like gravity or relativity in science. Here it is important to differentiate my stand from the notion of political liberalism, that is, basic universal human rights. I rather argue for reductionism. What I propose is much more radical and presumptuous: In nature, exists a single unalterable legal system for all of mankind. Law stems from morality; that is to say, every single piece of legislation should ideally be framed with an underlying moral purpose. Therefore, essentially, there is an objective morality somewhat along the lines of the Ten Commandments or, more appropriately, “The Supreme Principle of Morality”.

Globally, we see a movement toward similar political systems, economic policies, cultural and religious discourses, consequently culminating in increasing uniformity of laws. Further, the development of International Law also fosters the integration of different legal systems. Therefore, it is a reasonable assumption that we are moving towards a single legal system.

The argument for the unalterable aspect is grounded in reductionism. Here we can rely upon the idea of ‘reason’ as an objective concept as argued by Kant. As society develops we shall gravitate towards simpler principles and a clearer understanding of rights and obligation until we finally reach the minimum set of principles, the point of ideality. The law developed based on principles at the point of ideality is the objective unalterable Law.

Once the existence of a single objective unalterable Law is accepted as the fundamental premise, all changes in the present law may be deemed to be an attempt to the discovery of the final Law. Thus any present piece of law is merely a hypothesis, which is tested in a practical environment. If the hypothesis remains unaltered with the growth of society, it is a part of the final Law otherwise it is disregarded when it comes in conflict with the development of society. Therefore, Law is science.

It is essential to note here that the idea of a final Law does not, by any stretch of imagination attempts to indicate the content of the final Law as the entire argument is limited to the form of the final Law. Further, it is perfectly plausible that society might undergo a retrogressive transformation like Afghanistan with the Taliban. However, the reliance is upon the long-term rationality of mankind. While I recognize that it is difficult to either prove or disprove the concept of a final Law, I believe it should be afforded the same credibility as the concept of law as fluid.

(Utkarsh is currently a student in the third year of study at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.)