Vanshika Arora, is a first-year B.A. LL.B student at Army Institute of Law, Mohali. This article is an introductory guide to jurisprudence. 


Jurisprudence has been defined and studied by various thinkers and jurists over a long period of time. Hence, it is not possible to single out a common, widely accepted definition of jurisprudence. Law is dynamic, society and societal changes are dynamic in nature, therefore, the subject matter of jurisprudence inevitably evolves. Simply put, jurisprudence helps one understand the concept of law, investigate the nature of legal rules, and reflect upon the meaning of underlying legal systems. It answers questions that scrutinize legal relationships with morality, ethics, and other social phenomena. Jurisprudence finds its origin in the classical Greek period, wherein Roman jurists started delving into the concept of law. 


The word Jurisprudence originated from the Latin word ‘Juris Prudentia’, which can be broken down into ‘Juris’ and ‘prudence’, which respectively mean ‘law’ and ‘forethought’. Jurisprudence hence means ‘knowledge of the law’ or ‘legal theory’ or ‘study of the law’.

Lord Tennyson calls it the ‘topic of Lawless Law’ since it is not derived from any legislative statute or state assembly. Moreover, jurisprudence discusses related principles such as rule of law, need, and importance of law, etc. 

Bentham, regarded as the ‘Father of Jurisprudence’, was the first one to study law. He divided his study into two parts, 

  • Expositorial Approach: This approach stated that law is to be followed ‘as it is’. Law is the command of the sovereign, hence this command should be followed without any discourse. 
  • Censorial Approach: This approach stated that law is ‘as it ought to be’. It focused on the morality of law and its latent objectives. Instead of law being merely an instrument of power and enforcement, it should also reflect what is right in terms of ethics. 


Ulpian, the Roman Jurist, defined Jurisprudence as the observation of things, human and divine,  the knowledge of the just and the unjust.

Austin, defined jurisprudence within the limits of ‘command of the sovereign’, and did not believe in Bentham’s censorial approach. Moreover, he regarded jurisprudence as the ‘philosophy of positive law (jus positivum). As stated earlier, he believed law was an instrument of the political superior to practice command over his inferior subjects. He further divided jurisprudence into two categories, 

  • General Jurisprudence: law that is common to all.
  • Specific Jurisprudence: law that concerns itself with a specific section of the society. 

Holland regarded jurisprudence as ‘the formal science of positive law’, which is analytical in nature. He defined positive law as the general rule of external human action enforced by sovereign political authority. He further elaborated that jurisprudence is not concerned with the contents of the law, but only fundamental conceptions, making it a formal law. 

Salmond defined jurisprudence as the ‘science of law’, wherein law is civil law and law of the land. Moreover, he divided jurisprudence into two sections: 

  • General: Dealt with the entire body of legal doctrines.
  • Specific: Dealt with a particular portion of the doctrines.

Specific jurisprudence was also divided into three more sections:

  • Expository/ Systematic/Analytical: Dealt with contents of the actual legal system at any point in time, past, present, or future. 
  • Legal History: Concerned with historical legal developments 
  • Science of Legislation: Ideal future of the legal system and the purpose that it may serve.  

Keeton defined jurisprudence as the study and scientific synthesis of the essential principles of law. 

Roscoe Pound attempted to define jurisprudence as the science of law, wherein law should strictly be understood in its judicial sense, which would mean the body of principles recognized and enforced by public and regular tribunals in the administration of justice. 

Relationship with Other Social Sciences 

Social science, in its truest form, is the science of society, its people, and its nuances. Within the broad niche of social sciences, one may discover a separate science dealing with every aspect of society. May it be economics, politics, sociology, ethics, law, and so on. Jurisprudence, which loosely stated, is the knowledge of the law, relates itself to different social sciences in the following manner, 

Sociology: While a legal professional is predominantly concerned with rules and regulations that constitute law, sociology steps in to relate the ramifications of these rules within the society and serve the actual purpose behind law. Sociology concerns itself with the influence of law on society and human behavior. 

Psychology: Jurisprudence is concerned with man’s external behavior, while psychology helps legal professionals turn an eye towards mental processes, behavior, and bodily reactions to benefit the field of penology. Criminology and the process of punishment and sanction, in law, should always take into consideration, questions like, ‘the motive of a crime, ‘personality nuances of criminals’, ‘biological nuances of criminals’, etc. 

Ethics: Ethics is the science of moral, and positive human conduct. Law intends to control human conduct in a manner that is not disadvantageous to the rest of society. Hence, ethics and law cannot be divorced. Largely, all that is not ethical finds itself prohibited under the law, inviting punishment and sanction. But, morality too is subjective and changes its scope with time, making ethics and law a dynamic sect of human life. 

Economics: The relationship between economics and law is vivid. Economics is the science of production and distribution of wealth, the equitable enforcement of which, is the responsibility of law. Therefore, every legislation, legal premise, and argument focuses on economic welfare. 

Scope of Jurisprudence

In the words of Karl Lwellyn, ‘Jurisprudence is as big as law and bigger’, hinting at its vast scope. Justice PB Mukherjee stated, ‘Jurisprudence is both an intellectual and idealistic abstraction as well as the behavioral study of man in society. It includes political, social, economic, and cultural ideas. It covers that study of man in relation to state and society.’ Jurisprudence is often regarded as ‘the eye of law’ and covers a vast spectrum that cannot be limited to a particular area concerning law. It extends to the practical study of law, compares and reviews various legal systems. It also concerns itself with legal principles that are not strictly enforceable in the government machinery, regardless are essential in legal understanding. 


While it is common practice to study legislations and statutes to understand the law. Jurisprudence and other social sciences help the legal fraternity introspect the ramifications, effects, and results of a particular law or statute. Jurisprudence ventures into historical theories propounded by age-old jurists, hence giving contemporary professionals a taste of history and the evolution of law since then.

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