The word Jurisprudence is derived from two Latin words, juris— meaning ‘of law’, and prudens—meaning ‘skilled’. The term has been used variously at different times, ranging from its use to describe mere knowledge of the law to its more specific definition as a description of the scientific investigation of fundamental legal phenomena. A strict definition of jurisprudence is, as is the case with many general terms, difficult to articulate. The main problem with jurisprudence is that its scope of inquiry ranges over many different subjects and touches on many other disciplines, such as economics, politics, sociology and psychology, which would normally be regarded as having little to do with law and legal study. As a subject, jurisprudence may be said to involve the study of a wide range of social phenomena, with the specific aim of understanding the nature, place and role of law within society. The main question which jurisprudence seeks to answer is of a general nature and may be phrased simply as:

what is the nature of law? This question can be seen as being actually two questions in one, that is, ‘what is the law?’ and ‘what constitutes good law?’.

Answers to these two questions constitute two major divisions in jurisprudential enquiry. These are analytical jurisprudence and normative jurisprudence. These two divisions were first clearly specified by John Austin in his text The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (1832). Subdivisions have been identified and argued for as the field of jurisprudence or legal philosophy has expanded. In the following section, we will briefly explain some of these divisions. Some distinctions in jurisprudence The work of jurists can be divided into various distinctive areas, depending mainly on the specific subject matter with which the study deals. What follows are some of the more important divisions and subdivisions, although it should be remembered that there are others. Analytical jurisprudence Involves the scientific analysis of legal structures and concepts and the empirical exercise involved in discovering and elucidating the basic elements constituting law in specific legal systems. The question to be answered is ‘what is the law?’. Normative jurisprudence Refers to the evaluation of legal rules and legal structures on the basis of some standard of perfection and the specification of criteria for what constitutes ‘good’ law. This involves questions of what the law ought to be. General jurisprudence Refers to an abstracted study of the legal rules to be found generally in the more developed legal systems. Particular jurisprudence The specific analysis of the structures and other elements of a single legal system. Historical jurisprudence A study of the historical development and growth of legal systems, and the changes involved in that growth. Critical jurisprudence Studies intended to provide an estimation of the real value of existing legal systems, with a view to providing proposals for necessary changes to such systems. Sociological jurisprudence Seeks to clarify the link between law and other social phenomena, and to determine the extent to which its creation and operation are influenced and affected by social interests. Economic jurisprudence Investigates the effects on the creation and application of the law of various economic phenomena, for example, private ownership of property.

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