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jurisprudence (jo͝orˌĭspro͞odˈəns), study of the nature and the origin and development of law. It is variously regarded as a branch of ethics or of sociology. Many of the major systematic philosophers (e.g., Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Kant) have expounded jurisprudential theories. Before the 19th cent. most jurisprudents adhered to natural law, which maintained that sound legal doctrine was derivable only from a supposed law of nature established by divine ordinance. The natural-law school did not deny that the details of legal regulation depended upon the will of the sovereign. However, the positivist, or analytical, school, which first became important in the late 18th cent., insisted that law was entirely a matter of sovereign decree, distinct from morality and theology. Among important 19th-century trends was the view, represented by Savigny, that a people's legal system expressed the national spirit. In the mid-19th cent. many jurisprudents attempted to avoid what they felt were theoretical preconceptions and to demonstrate a uniform evolution from primitive times to modern industrialized society. Other thinkers were skeptical of evolutionary explanations and sought the basic principles underlying all systems of law in various fields, including economics and psychology. Among the more important legal thinkers in the United States have been Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Roscoe Pound.


See J. Hall, ed., Readings in Jurisprudence (1938); W. S. Carpenter, Foundations of Modern Jurisprudence (1958); D. Lloyd, Introduction to Jurisprudence (3d ed. 1972).

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legal and sociological theories which seek to situate the body of laws and legal institutions in an overall social context. Thus, jurisprudence to some extent overlaps with the SOCIOLOGY OF LAW.

Historically, it is possible to identify the following subdivisions of jurisprudence:

  1. legal positivism, e.g. Kelsen's conception of law as an objectively statable, hierarchical system of norms, or Hart's view of law as resting on ‘basic norms’. This view of law has been seen as ‘in tune’ with traditional legal professionalism, and viewed by its practitioners as involving theories requiring little input from social science. Jeremy BENTHAM's application of utilitarianism to legal reform can also be seen as a form of legal positivism;
  2. natural law theories (see NATURAL RIGHTS AND NATURAL LAW), theories which were a main target of the legal positivists;
  3. historical and evolutionary theories, e.g. MAINE's theories, and Savigny's account of laws as reflecting the custom or Volkgeist of a nation or people;
  4. conflict theories, theories which emphasize the conflicts of interest underlying the formation and social control functions of legal systems, e.g. Roscoe Pound's ‘pluralism’;
  5. legal realism, US approaches influenced by PRAGMATISM, which emphasized the social basis, and fluid, ‘living character’ of law.

All of the above approaches have exerted an influence on the sociology of law, but a recent resurgence of sociolegal studies has owed much to a new vein of empirical sociological studies of legal systems and he operation of the law.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000


1. the science or philosophy of law
2. a system or body of law
3. a branch of law
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
This stands in opposition to therapeutic jurisprudence principles such as autonomy and self-determination, which Winick argues problem-solving court judges should promote.
This example suggests that the judge may have considered the woman to have less capacity for self-determination, creating a tension with the therapeutic jurisprudence goal of enhancing self-determination.
This response conflicts with the normative goal of therapeutic jurisprudence, which intends that individuals assume responsibility for their rehabilitation (56) and that judges facilitate this.
This reaction conflicts with therapeutic jurisprudence principles, which suggest that in judge-offender interactions, judges "must strive ...
The second tension between the stated goals of therapeutic jurisprudence and the gendering ideology of drug court team members was evident with respect to constructions of resistance.
This reaction by the judge appears inconsistent with a fundamental therapeutic jurisprudence principle of judging with an ethic of care.
The finding that women sometimes reject the therapeutic jurisprudence function of the Courts and resist engagement is consistent with findings from Tara Lyons's 25-month critical ethnography study of the Ottawa Drug Treatment Court.
The above example again demonstrates how the gendered ideology of the judge subverts the capacity for therapeutic jurisprudence goals to be realized.
The influence of a gendered ideology was so powerful that it frequently trumped therapeutic jurisprudence goals.
The third discord between the gendered ideology of drug court personnel and therapeutic jurisprudence goals was observed in relation to the construction of women in the family.
The final tension between the gendered ideology of the drug court team and therapeutic jurisprudence goals was evidenced in constructions of Aboriginal women.