Principles – Concept, values, examples, principles of Law

We explain what the principles are, their relationship with values ​​and various examples. Also, what are the principles of law.

The principles guide conduct within a given ethical, moral and cultural framework.

What are the principles?

In the field of ethics, the principles they are the set of general and universal norms with which human beings guide our actions and our conduct, within a given ethical, moral and cultural framework.

Most doctrines, religions, and codes of some kind are based on well-established principles, which underpin and structure a whole chain of values, that is, they shape a way of being in the world.

The principles are so called because they are at the beginning, at the base, of every moral or social edifice. That is, they are fundamental precepts generally held as beneficial not only for the individual, but for all humanity.

According to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), principles can be understood as propositions in which the human will is oriented towards certain practical rules, and which can be of two types:

  • Maxims, when it comes to subjective principles, that is, they depend on the internal jurisdiction of each individual.
  • Laws, when it comes to objective principles, that is, imposed by the outside, by society.

The principles can vary depending on the individual or the community, and can refer to a specific area of ​​knowledge, although always from an ethical perspective. For example, “economic principles” are the precepts of the exercise of the economy that guarantee the highest share of collective well-being, and whose existence we all take for granted in some way, although what exactly these principles are can be a matter of debate.

Principles and values

If the principles are propositions of a general and universal scope, which serve to regulate human behavior and which usually emanate from the experience of the community, values, on the other hand, are usually abstract concepts of a moral and subjective nature, that is, that each individual interprets in their own way, even in cases where two or more people can share them.

For example, two people may agree on the importance of honesty as a value for life, but they may have different conceptions of what is the limit of what is permissible and at what point dishonesty begins.

The values, therefore, come from a specific moral, cultural and social education, and depend on the context where you live. Therefore, the exercise of one or the other depends entirely on the will of each person, and it is possible to act according to them in some situations and not in others.

The same can be said of principles, to be sure, but the violation of these general norms is seldom overlooked by the commons of society, and usually brings a very high moral and personal cost to the individual.

For example, a fundamental principle of all modern societies is that killing another human being is an abominable crime, only permissible in very specific circumstances, such as war or the preservation of one’s life (self-defense) or the life of a third. Failure to comply with this principle usually entails not only psychological consequences for those who do it, but also ostracism and condemnation from the rest of society.

Examples of principles

Some examples of principles are as follows:

  • The ten Commandments that, according to the myth, God gave his prophet Moses on Mount Sinai: you will not kill, you will not desire what belongs to your neighbor, and so on.
  • Fundamental Human Rights enshrined in most of the National Constitutions of democratic countries: the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to identity, and so on.
  • The general principles of law, that propose a concrete idea of ​​justice and serve as a pattern for the creation of laws and legal frameworks: who does not do what he should, then do what he should not; whoever accuses has the obligation to prove, and so on.

Principle in law

Although the exercise of law can vary enormously between one legal framework and another, that is, between the laws of one country and those of another, in general there is a set of fundamental or basic principles that serve as a pattern for the creation of laws, provide support for the interpretation of written laws, and fill any legal gaps that may exist.

These are the General Principles of Law, which are not included in any specific legislation, but are considered universally applicable since they hold, nothing more and nothing less, a particular idea of ​​justice.

Several of these general principles are formulated as Latin expressions, since they were inherited from Roman law. We can list some as an example:

  • Affirmanti incumbit probatio. It is translated as “whoever affirms is obliged to prove”, and it is a norm that guarantees the presumption of innocence: the accusation itself is not proof of anything.
  • Pacta sunt servanda. It is translated as “the agreed obligation”, and means that what is agreed between the parties, either orally or by means of a contract, obliges them to fulfill the given word.
  • Ubi lex non distinguit, nec distinguishes us debemus. It translates as “where the law does not distinguish, neither should we,” and it means that the law must apply without distinction to everyone equally.
  • Ubi lex voluit, dixit; ubi noluit, tacuit. It is translated as “when the law wanted, it arranged it; when he did not want it, he kept silent ”, which means that the laws must be applied as they are written, without adding concepts and ideas that are not part of their formulation.