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Updated on March 26, 2012

What is Jurisprudence?

JURISPRUDENCE ; The word "Jurisprudence" is derived from its Latin equivalent, "Jurisprudentia" meaning knowledge of law-- ‘Juris’ denotes law and 'prudentia' knowledge. 'If we use the term ‘science’ in its widest permissible sense, as including the systematized knowledge any subject of intellectual inquiry, Jurisprudence may be defined "the science of civil law."

It is a science as distinguished from arts and connotes- in its wide sense all those subjects which directly or indirectly treat of the science of is a study not of the law of one particular country but of the general notion not of law itself. Every law is based on certain fundamental principles and those principles are common‘to all legal systems. Jurisprudence thus confines itself to a systematic and scientific study of the existing rules of law.

The celebrated Roman, juris-consult Ulpian defines jurisprudence as the "knowledge of things human and divine, the science of the just and the unjust”. This definition vague and indefinite and characterizes the notion of law that prevailed in the beginning of Roman civilization. It is more akin to the ancient Hindu concept of jurisprudence, which was permeated by the central idea of dharma that applied equally to the king and the subject without any distinction,

According to Jaimini "that which is signified by a command and leads to a benefit is called dharma. Cicero defines jurisprudence as "the philosophical aspect of the knowledge of law." it is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as "knowledge or skill in law; the science which treats of human laws (written or unwritten) in »general: the philosophy of law: a system or Body of law.

Holland defines it as "the formal science of positive law." It is wrongly applied to actual systems of law, or to current views of laws, or to suggestions for its amendment, but is the name of a science. The science is a formal, or analytical rather than material one. It is this science of actual or positive law.

Holland elucidates his statement ’that jurisprudence is a formal or analytical science as opposed to a material one by observing that it deals rather with the various relations which are regulated by legal rules than with the rules themselves which regulate, those relations. It is not the material science of those portions of the law which various nations have in common; but the formal science of those relations of mankind which are generally recognized as having legal consequences.

According to Gray, jurisprudence is the science of law, the statement and systematic arrangement of the rules followed by the Courts and the principles involved in those rules.

It will appear from the above definitions that although Salmond, Holland and Gray define jurisprudence as the science of law, Prof. Gray adopts a different meaning with regard to the term law. He associates the term ‘Jurisprudence’ with a scientific statement and arrangement of the rules followed by the Courts and of the principles involved in those rules.

Salmond deals with the theoretical or general jurisprudence and calls it as the science of the first principles of the civil law. To the same effect are observations of Holland who calls jurisprudence as a science which is formal or analytical rather than a material one. According to him, it is the science of actual, or positive law and is wrongly divided into general` ' and ‘particular' or into ‘philosophical’ and ‘historical’.

Modern writers agree that the term jurisprudence does not merely connote knowledge of law; it covers a field much wider than this. According to Allen, it is the scientific synthesis of the essential principles of law, To Paton it is a particular method of study, not of the law of one country but of the general notion of law itself. It is, according to him, a study relating to law, And, according to Professor Keeton, it is a study and systematic arrangement of the general, principles of law, understanding the phrase "the general principles of law" in its widest sense.


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