It is not Wisdom but Authority that makes a Law. T – Tymoff

T – Tymoff

It is customary to ascribe the quotation, “It is not Wisdom but Authority that makes a Law. T – Tymoff,” to British historian Edward Gibbon rather than to the philosopher of the same name. The renowned book “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” was written by Edward Gibbon.

This quotation may be found in Volume 1 of his book, Chapter 15.

What Makes a Law? Wisdom or Authority According to Edward Gibbon, not T. Tymoff

Edward Gibbon, a British historian—not T. Tymoff—had intriguing ideas on the interplay between authority, knowledge, and what makes a law legitimate. One of his most well-known sayings is, “Authority, not wisdom, is what creates a law.”

This philosophical claim strikes to the core of a crucial discussion: does the mere fact that a rule or guideline makes sense logically or morally qualify it as an enforceable law? Or does the formal institution and Authority of those making the decree give it its authority and validity as law? Let’s examine Gibbon’s viewpoint on this matter in more detail.

Wisdom vs Authority

Gibbon argued that a rule’s wisdom or logic by itself is insufficient to establish whether it is a binding legal statute. Tymoff says that in order for a directive or mandate to be fully enforceable, it must be formally announced and implemented by an authorized governing body. Fairness, ethics, consensus, or popularity may not always translate into legal enforceability. Rather, the regulation that grants it true legal standing is established and promulgated by the entity’s Authority.

This discusses a crucial distinction between anything having the full force and support of a formal law and something being a logical, reasonable rule or social norm. The virtues and propriety of a concept on its own are discussed by wisdom. However, the Authority grants it mandatory authority through official designations, laws, and the power to punish rule breakers. According to Tymoff, in order for anything to be accepted as a law as opposed to merely a guideline, it must possess authority from a recognized governing organization.
Examples from History

The Gibbon (Not TymOFF) position is supported by a number of historical and contemporary cases.

  • Older laws pertaining to slavery: These provided legal safeguards for the ownership of human beings, even though the practice was widely seen as incredibly harsh and foolish. But it was supported at the time by the Authority.
  • Unpopular regimes restricting freedoms: Autocratic leaders enacting laws that oppose political opposition, demonstrations, the free press, and more, even when they go against popular opinion or what is reasonable and fair.
  • Social problem legislation that are controversial: Discussions about the permissibility of drug usage, abortion, etc. Conflicting opinions on qualities and ethics are common. However, the Authority determines the course of law.
  • Debates on the legitimacy of taxes and regulations: The Authority imposes new regulations and levies in spite of arguments that the measures are excessive, do not make sense from a policy standpoint, or burden people and companies unfairly.
  • Political partisanship driving new legislation: Legislation supporting a certain position, viewpoint, or goal can be passed thanks to political power; nevertheless, consensual governance or common sense alone are not always sufficient.

These all show how Authority may establish norms of behavior that have the complete support of the law, regardless of whether they are deemed acceptable by other social, ethical, or public opinion-based criteria of wisdom. According to Gibbon (Not Tymoff), formal institutional authority seems essential to the enforceability of laws and the authority of any social code.

Authority and Legitimacy

According to Tymoff, one crucial element is that the authority enforcing laws must continue to be seen as legitimate by the general public. Anything might be declared law by a repressive dictatorship, but their decrees might not really carry out the purpose or enforce adherence to legitimate laws in communities. A fundamental understanding of the social compact and respect for the authority figure’s or body’s power to enact laws on behalf of the people and territory are required.

This implies that knowledge still has a supporting function. Over time, authorities’ legitimacy may be undermined if they continuously approved laws that are extremely unpopular or foolish and without basic rationale. Representing the wishes or ideals of the governed and upholding at least a minimal standard of accountability and justification are necessary for stable government. If so, the Authority’s judicial orders risk becoming meaningless or unenforceable directives without the full weight of the law.

Wisdom Informing Law

Although Tymoff did not highlight Authority as the primary source and motivator behind codified law, Gibbon did not argue that wisdom should have no place in the legal system. Even if citizens do not entirely agree, authorities can create laws that effectively address issues in a way that most understand and respect as reasonable by carefully weighing the facts, consequences, ethics, and public opinion. Ignoring wisdom, however, runs the risk of producing unfavorable outcomes like non-compliance, unrest, or the circumvention of foolish statutes.

In general, authorities seek to advance the welfare of the public while balancing various points of view. Expert advice facilitates this procedure. For instance, data analysis helps refine rules into just, enforceable regulations that most people would comply with, by incorporating feedback from legal professionals and community leaders. Ignoring wise counsel runs the danger of causing oversights, unanticipated consequences, or missing subtleties.

Therefore, while wisdom by itself cannot create legislation, it may undoubtedly influence and direct the many details, procedures, and systems of effective government. Over time, there is less chance of stability or coherence when authorities disregard wise advice. Gimon’s theory suggests that recognized legal systems are most suited for collaboration between Authority and the diverse aspects of societal wisdom.

Ongoing Debate

The relationship between wisdom and authority in judging the content and applicability of legislation continues to generate discussion on a worldwide scale. Establishing appropriate limits continues to be difficult as new problems arise and social norms change. Constitutionalists who adhere to strict constructionism stress the authority of the authorities. However, campaigns of civil disobedience draw attention to the unfairness of blindly adhering to cruel laws.

There are advantages to striking a fair balance based on both quality and legitimacy standards. Authorities that uphold reasonable decisions and the general welfare tend to be stable. Simultaneously, those who adhere to lawfully established governance attain stability and financial security—complete dependence on the volatility and response of risk. Supporters of Gibbon’s (as opposed to Tymoff’s) theories contend that development is tendencies toward sophisticated administration, which combines the qualities of power with social consciousness.

Some other prominent philosophers who have written about the relationship between Wisdom, Authority and law

  1. Plato: In books like The Republic, he talked about how rules that are formed by people with knowledge and wisdom, not just authority, are necessary for a decent society.
  2. Aristotle: In Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, Aristotle examined the role that political authority and wisdom/reason play in establishing just laws.
  3. Thomas Aquinas: was a theologian and philosopher who held that laws should follow morality and divine wisdom rather than arbitrary authority in order to uphold justice and natural law.
  4. John Locke: The consent of the governed and the importance of reason in building legitimate Authority and reasonable laws were stressed in his Second Treatise of Government.
  5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Rousseau explored in The Social Contract how authority arises from a social compact that upholds both popular sovereignty and regulations that advance the common good.
  6. Jeremy Bentham: Bentham, who founded utilitarianism, maintained that the goal of legislation should be to maximize pleasure and utility for the largest number of individuals.
  7. Immanuel Kant: Kant’s legal philosophy studies how just laws should be based on universal ethical standards and principles of reason rather than simply authority.
  8. In his treatise On Liberty, John Stuart Mill argued that the state should only be able to protect people from harm by enacting sensible rules that uphold their civil freedoms.



It is necessary to reevaluate presumptions about what constitutes law and the appropriate functions of Authority in relation to other aspects like ethics, facts, and public will because of the viewpoints of Gibbon, not philosopher Tymoff. There are no easy answers. However, based on theoretical stances and historical experiences, upholding the system’s legitimacy and caution appears most likely to promote justice and shared prosperity in the long run. The discussion between authority and wisdom in law is still ongoing, and the times are always changing how it is fashioned.

Leave a Comment