What is jurisprudence in law – It’s nature, types and Scope

what is jurisprudence in law

What is jurisprudence in law?

Much like words of political science or other social sciences, which do not have a universal or uniform definition, jurisprudence also doesn’t have any definition. People who are experts in legal theory have understood the term differently in light of different societal conditions across the world. It is an incredibly vast subject. It is also known as “legal theory” which critically understands the law. It is, therefore, a general inquiry, reasoning and analytical understanding of the law.

Nature of Jurisprudence

Law can never be static. Law has to keep changing according to the developments in society. In the same manner, the scope of the law also cannot be static.

The views of Autin and Salmond on the study and nature of law –

Austin says that law is the aggregate of the rules set by men as political superiors or sovereign to men as politically subject. According to him, Law is the command of the sovereign. He further said that there are three elements in law-

a) command

b) duty

c) sanction

But, Salmond defined law as the body of principles and applied by the State in the administration of justice.

Holland regarded jurisprudence as the formal science of favorable laws. He called the law an analytical science and not a material science.

Scope of Jurisprudence

Jurisprudence is a broad subject, and its utility cannot be undermined. It has a far-reaching scope –

  • The researches in jurisprudence contribute to the development of society by having implications in the legal, political and social school of thoughts.
  • Jurisprudence also contains educational value. It aids in the logical analysis of the legal concepts, and it sharpens the logical techniques of lawyers.
  • The discipline of jurisprudence helps to understand the law in its proper context by considering the needs of the society and taking note of the advances in its related fields.
  • It can teach to look for answers to a new legal problem that can be found by a consideration of present social needs and not in the wisdom of the past.
  •  Jurisprudence throws light on the basic ideas and fundamentals of law. It helps to understand the nature of the law, its concepts, utility, etc. It helps understand the law from the grass-root level in a logical way.

Types of Jurisprudence in Law

There are five schools of jurisprudence as mentioned below –

  • Philosophical school or the Natural Law

Natural law or the philosophical school focuses entirely on the laws of nature. This school of jurisprudence believes that there are laws inherent in nature which are common to all societies, irrespective of the fact they have been written down or enacted officially.  This school believes that law is rational and reasonable, and it proposes that laws arise logically from the morals present in society. Therefore, immoral conduct will naturally be regarded as against the law.

Notable jurists from this school are Grotius (1583-1645), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Hegel (1770-1831).

  • Analytical School

This school is also known as the positivist school of jurisprudence because it considers law as it is and not as what it should be. This school proposes that a link between law and morality isn’t necessary and that law emanates from various sources, usually the government through legislation. The analytical school does not consider morality and customs as a part of the law. This school focuses on legal positivism and treated legal theory as a scientific discipline that should be based on experimentation and reasoning.

Notable jurists from this school include Bentham and Austin.

  • Historical School

This school of jurisprudence thinks that the law is the result of the continuous development of society because society is the product of customs, religious principles and financial requirements and needs of the people.

This theory says the law is based on the general consciousness of the people and that it is the product of the forces and influences of the past.

Leading proponents of this theory include Savigny, Sir Henry Maine, and Edmund Burke.

  • Sociological School

This school of jurisprudence originated as a product of many juristic thoughts. The foremost jurists of this school treated law as a social phenomenon. According to them, the law is a social function and an expression of human society which concerns itself with external relations of its members.

According to this school of thought, the State is not the creator of rights but only formulates it. So laws have come directly from the society.

Main exponenets of this school include Montesquieu, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Duguit and Rosco Pound.

  • Realist School

This school isn’t a formal school of jurisprudence, but yet some American jurists believe that law consists of pronouncements of the courts.  They emphasize on what the courts ought to or may do rather than abstract logical reasoning from general principles and on the inarticulate ideological premises underlying a legal system.

Prominent jurists of this thought are Holmes, Gray and Jerome Frank.


The nature and meaning of law have been understood by various jurists differently. There is no unanimous consensus between them on the meaning of the law. The reason for such differences is that different jurists have understood the law in light of different societal conditions. However, each school has had its impact and continues to play a significant role. It is the total of all the schools and their critics which has enabled them to build up a complete and rounded picture of the concept of law. The word ‘jurisprudence’ remains defined, it means the study of law. Therefore, the value of jurisprudence cannot be underestimated both as a legal discipline and its relation to other social sciences.

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