Meaning And Scope Of Jurisprudence

Background and Meaning of Jurisprudence

The term Jurisprudence is derived from two Latin words that are Juris + Prudentia = law + knowledge which means ‘knowledge of the law’. Jurisprudence tells about fundamental principles of law. There is no universal or fixed meaning of jurisprudence. It is also known as philosophy, science, and the skill of law. It does not master a particular field of a legal doctrine rather goes into the understanding of nature and purpose of law in general.

Jurisprudence generally comprehended as the study of law is a field of information that is quite vast. It examines the different thoughts and reasons behind the improvement of law and looks to clarify thereof behind such developments of the law. Jurisprudence implies in a real sense and customarily “common insight about law,” the scholarly ability to outline and apply laws as per sound hypothetical standards.

The case of Speluncean Explorers: – This fictitious case was given by Lon. L. fuller in an article where there was cannibalism preferred by defendants to rescue themselves from dying. The article gave five possible judicial responses that differ in reason and whether survivors would be guilty of the same or not. Fuller’s work was described as ‘Classic in jurisprudence’ as it was between two things Natural Law and legal positivism.[1]

Jeremy Bentham is known as a ‘Father of Jurisprudence’.

John Austin is also known as the founder of English Jurisprudence. He took forward the work of Bentham.

Forms of Jurisprudence

  1. Which analyses, explain, classify and criticize the entire bodies of law.
  2. Which also compares or contrasts law with other fields of knowledge. e.g.: – history, psychology, etc.
  3. Which reveal the historical, moral and cultural basis of legal concept.
  4. The branch focuses on finding what the law is and how do judges decide the case properly.

Definition of Jurisprudence

1. Gray-

In his definition, he says that

“Jurisprudence is the science of law, the statements and systematic arrangement of rules followed by courts and the principles involved in these rules.”

2. Jeremy Bentham-

According to him, there are two approaches to study law that are-

  • Expository Approach – examination of law as it is. It was about commands and sovereign
  • Censorial Approach – examination of law as it is ought to be. It dealt with the morality of law.

Criticism- Bentham’s theory fails to balance the interest of the individual with that of the community’s interest and materialism and idealism cannot be blended.

3. John Austin-

He refers to jurisprudence as the “philosophy of positive law”.

According to his definition, the science of jurisprudence is concerned with positive law. He said about laws strictly so-called. These laws are given by the political superior authority for controlling the conduct concerning subjects under the control. He does not go into the goodness or badness of law. He divides jurisprudence into two parts –

  • General Jurisprudence- It includes that subjects or ends of the law which are common to all system.
  • Particular Jurisprudence – jurisprudence is a science of any actual system of law or any portion of it that means it is confined.

Criticism – Salmond, Holland, and Dias had criticized his theory by saying that there could be a concept that falls in neither of these categories. The main contention in rejecting the classification of Austin is based upon its impracticability of the definition.

4. John Salmond-

Jurisprudence is the science of law.

By this, he meant that jurisprudence meant only certain species of law like the law of the state or civil law. He divided jurisprudence into parts-

  • Generic Jurisprudence- amalgamated form which is the entire body of legal doctrines
  • Specific jurisprudence – any particular form, any particular department, or any particular portion of doctrine.

Criticism- His definition was not considered accurate because there was no clarity of thought.

5. Hollands-

Jurisprudence is defined as a formal science of positive law.

Formal science is distinguished from material science as it is one that deals not with concrete details but with the fundamental principles underlying them. Formal science = Analytical science.

Criticism – This definition was only concerned with forms, not intricacies.

6. Julius Stone

Jurisprudence is lawyers’ extraversion. It means lawyers’ skills of examination of ideas and techniques of law.

7. Oxford dictionary-

states that “Jurisprudence is the systematic and formulated knowledge or the science of human law.”

8. Keeton-

In his definition, “Jurisprudence is the study and systematic arrangement of the general principles of law. It means it deals with Public and Private Laws and the contents of principles are considered a department of law.[2]

9. Roscoe Pound-

In his famous definition defines that “ Jurisprudence as the science of law using the term law in a juridical sense, as denoting the body of principles recognized and enforced by the public and regular tribunal in the administration of Justice.”

It is difficult to give a uniform and universal definition of jurisprudence as there are so many different opinions set by jurists. Every jurist has his notion of subject-matter and proper limits of Jurisprudence depends upon his ideology and the nature of society.

Scope of Jurisprudence

According to jurists, the scope of jurisprudence is limited and unlimited as per their definitions so the perception and different authorities attribute different meanings and varying premises to the law which causes different opinions about the exact limit of the fields covered by jurisprudence. Jurisprudence has been defined as to cover moral and religious percepts also and that has created confusion.

1. Austin-

According to his definition of jurisprudence has distinguished law from morality and theology and restricted the term to the body of rules set and enforced by sovereign or supreme lawmaking authority within the realm. Thus, the scope of jurisprudence was limited to the concept of positive law, and ethics and theology fall outside the province of jurisprudence.

There is a tendency to widen the scope of jurisprudence and at present, we include that was previously considered to be beyond the province of jurisprudence. The present view is that the scope of jurisprudence cannot be circumscribed to any particular boundary. It includes all concepts of human order and human conduct in society and anything that concerns state and society fall under the domain of jurisprudence.

2. P.B. Mukherjee-

As P.B. Mukherjee, states that new jurisprudence is both an intellectual and idealistic abstraction as well as a behaviouristic study of man in society. It includes political, social, economic, and cultural ideas and the study of a man about state and society.

3. Thurman W. Arnold-

According to his definition of jurisprudence says that “as the shining but unfulfilled dream of a world governed by reasons. For some, it lies buried n a system, the details of which they do not know. Form some familiarity with the system, it lies in the depth of unreal literature. For others familiar with its literature, it lies in the hope of future enlightenment. For all, it is just around the corner.”[3]

4. Lord Radcliff-

In his definition mentions that jurisprudence is a part of history, a part of economics and sociology, a part of Ethics and Philosophy of life.[4]

5. Karl Llewellyn

In his definition says that “ Jurisprudence is as big as Law – and bigger”.

After studying all the above definitions and understandings of Jurists we would find that Austin was the one who tried to limit the scope of Jurisprudence. He tried to separate morals and theology from the study of Jurisprudence in his thought. The scope cannot be circumscript. It includes all concepts of human order and human conduct in state and society and which are not confined to a particular area.

1. It likewise manages the ideal component and motivation behind the law inside its extension. It amalgamates all the methodologies and schools of the statute. It is an integrative law. Current law channels on the fields of the sociologies and of theory; it delves into the chronicled past and endeavors to make evenness of a nursery out of the rich bedlam of clashing overall sets of laws.

2. The jurisprudence is explicitly identified with Common Law nations and Anglo-American overall sets of laws. Legal Theory is related to the mainland’s overall set of laws. Over the period, the statute has broadened its degree to cover additionally the zone shrouded in Legal Hypothesis.

3. The extent of jurisprudence isn’t restricted to the investigation of one or a few overall sets of laws. It identifies with the relative investigation of various general sets of laws proposing codification and lawful changes through the enactment.

4. Directive principles of state policy are always considered unenforceable but then too they are obeyed by every individual and should be obeyed by the state too so they are made obligatory in this way too as they are fundamental in governing a country. In this way, the scope of jurisprudence is not restricted and enforcement of a concept is also necessary.[5]

5. Jurisprudence is the eye and grammar of law since it illuminates the essential thought and key standards of law. Its study helps the legal professional in developing a logical outlook.

6. It trains critical thinking of the mind of the student and helps to find out fault and better use of legal terminology and expressions.

7. It helps lawyers in practical work and also tells them how to tackle new problems through the knowledge and implementation of Jurisprudence as well as develops their alternative channel of legal thoughts.

8. It also helps Lawyers and Judges in ascertaining the true meaning of law and develops their rational thinking by which they can analyze rules of interpretation.


[1] R. Wacks, Understanding jurisprudence-, fifth ed.

[2] “Meaning of Jurisprudence,” [Online]. Available:

[3] V. Mahajan, Jurisprudence and legal theory, fifth ed.

[4] C. Radcliff, The Law, and its compass.

[5] R. Vohra, “Scope of Jurisprudence,” [Online]. Available:

This Article is Authored by Archita Sharma, 3rd Year BA.LL.B Student at PSIT College of Law, Kanpur.

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