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Definitions of Jurisprudence

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Various legal experts gave different definitions on Jurisprudence. Here is a collection of some prominent definitions.


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


Salmond defines Jurisprudence as the "Science of the first principles of civil law".

In Salmond's point of view, Jurisprudence thus deals with civil law or the law of the state. This kind of law consists of rules applied by courts in the administration of justice.

There are three kinds of laws that govern the conduct of human in a society.

  • Theologian Laws - derive their authority from a divine or superhuman source intended to regulate human conduct as well as beliefs and are enforced by spiritual rewards or penalties in the other world (ultra-mundane sanctions)
  • Moralist Laws - Man-made that exist in all societies, both primitive and most civilized. There is no definite authority to enforce the laws, but the public.
  • Jurist Laws - Regulates external human conduct only and not inner beliefs. They can exist in politically organized societies, which has a Government. They are enforced by courts or judicial tribunals of the society which applies a variety of sanctions ranging from fines to capital punishments.

According to Salmond, Jurisprudence is the science of first principles of jurist law or in Salmond's words civil law.


Austin defines Jurisprudence as the "Philosophy of Positive Law".

Positive Law means the law laid down by political superior to regulate the conduct of those subject in his authority. The positive law is identical to civil law. However, the term Philosophy is misleading. Philosophy is the theory of things, man and divine, while Jurisprudence only deals with man-made law.


Holland defines Jurisprudence as "The Formal Science of Positive Law". He says "Jurisprudence deals with the human relations which are governed by rules of law rather than with the material rules themselves."

Formal science differs from material science in the way that formal science deals with fundamental principles underlying and not concrete details.