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What are the Different Types of Jurisprudence?

By Theresa Miles
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are four different types of jurisprudence stemming from Roman law, and are academic, comparative, ethical and philosophical. The study of legal systems based on different underpinnings, such as Islamic law or Indian law, can still be evaluated along the same concepts as common Western jurisprudence, although the comparative components may vary. Types can be further differentiated into schools of thought.

The philosophy of law, the comparison of legal systems, and the importance of law in society make up the basis of jurisprudential study. Legal scholars focus on specific aspects of the law to drive their synthesis of the issues and theories. Written works are published on topics, which are then grouped into general categories of analysis and further segregated by analytical approach, or schools of thought. Although the categories are defined by content and are not formally labeled, an informal title can be applied to each type.

Academic jurisprudence is the study of an entire legal topic, such as contracts law or constitutional law. This type of study of the law produces textbooks and legal encyclopedias in addition to other legal compendium. Professors, law schools, and law students regularly contribute to this body of knowledge.

Comparative jurisprudence compares the law and its application to other academic disciplines, such as religion or economics. The scholar in this area of study produces legal papers for publication that seek to establish the importance of law in the paradigm of academic constructs. Experts in this area are often called upon to place legal issues in context.

Ethical, or fundamental, jurisprudence is concerned with the history of the law, its moral mandate, and its cultural basis. Topics in this area of study might be termed legal ethics, and address the social contract between the public and the legal system. Scholars would study the integral role of the law in society and how the importance of the law has changed over time.

Philosophical jurisprudence concerns itself with the philosophy of the law. It answers questions about the nature of the law and why it is important to a modern society. Legal philosophy is a popular area of study and often drives legal reform.

Schools of thought also vary within these categories. A school of thought is a conceptual framework, or theory, that is applied to the analysis. There are various jurisprudential schools, but some of the most common are formalism, realism, positivism, and natural law.

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Discussion Comments

By yaqoob — On Mar 28, 2020

What is the difference between Islamic jurisprudence and jurisprudence in eyes of the law. If both are the same, then the way in Pakistan Islamic jurisprudence is taught separately.

By kentuckycat — On Aug 30, 2011

How do you all think these types of jurisprunce may be perceived in other cultures? One point that has caused problems in the past is international law. Every culture has different standards and customs that they follow. When the laws of two countries clash, it can cause political and economic problems.

By matthewc23 — On Aug 30, 2011

I am curious how much consideration is given to the ethical and philosophical types of jurisprudence when laws are made. I'm sure that the vast majority of lawmakers have no legal experience, and they may not understand the extent of the laws they pass. I'm sure there are several times when, if they were more informed about how laws might impact groups or individuals further along the line, they may change the way they create laws.

Also, how has law changed over time? Modern jurisprudence has to be much different than law 100 years ago, and it is certainly different than 1000 years ago. I think there has been a lot more emphasis put on what is considered moral. I wonder how much of this can be attributed to the advancement of science and technology in general.

By Izzy78 — On Aug 29, 2011

@JimmyT - I would say you are probably right. These seem like things that would be looked at more by philosophers at the university level rather than law professors and law students. I would assume lawyers have to have some sort of training in these things just so that they know they exist, but I assume most of their studies go toward understanding and interpreting laws and court cases.

I know one of the big issues since environmental issues became popular in the 70s is environmental law. I would say this could cover a lot of the jurisprudence types.

Obviously, academic and comparative jurisprudence would be covered, but then you can add in the ideas of what environmental law came to be so popular (ethical) and why we need laws to govern the environment anyway (philosophical).

By JimmyT — On Aug 28, 2011

I didn't realize there were so many way to look at law. Are all of the different types of jurisprudence that were discussed actively practiced, or are some of them more of an idea than something that can actually be studied?

I'm thinking specifically of ethical and philosophical jurisprudence. As they are discribed in the article, they are more of an abstract idea of what is right or wrong and why laws are important. Obviously these things are important, but they can't be looked at from the standpoint scientific standpoint of how a law affects people or society as a whole.

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