Different Approaches towards the Study of Jurisprudence

By | August 14, 2019
Different Approaches towards the Study of Jurisprudence

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Different Approaches towards the Study of Jurisprudence | Overview

The different approaches towards the study of jurisprudence have led to the emergence of different schools of jurisprudence. The article emphasizes on analyzing different approached towards the study of jurisprudence.

Introduction

With the passage of time, there have been some drastic changes in the scope and subject-matter of Jurisprudence. It originated in the Roman civilization with the Romans questioning the meaning and nature of law. It was quite limited since the concepts of law, morals and justice were confused with each other. References are also made to the works of ancient Greek philosophers such as Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the ideas of Roman and Greek jurisprudence disappeared and the Christian State emerged. Soon, the authority of the church over the state was challenged by the reformist and ideas of secularism emerged.

Many theories were proposed with regards to the evolution and nature of ‘state’ by philosophers like Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Rousseau and Blackstone. The Age of Reason in the 17th Century led to the formation of ideas of collectivism and social welfare. Slowly, the idea of positive law and positivistic approach gained popularity whereby the boundaries of the law were demarcated and its scope was limited. With this, the subject of jurisprudence underwent some drastic changes. The various events in the history of the study of jurisprudence have led to the emergence of various approaches towards the study of jurisprudence. Let us discuss these in detail.

Classical Approach

Classical approach towards the study of jurisprudence refers to looking at the subject through the eyes of the theories and ideas of ancient legal systems. Some notable ones amongst them are:

Roman Thought

The systematic study of law and legal concepts was first initiated by Romans. They began to question the meaning and nature of law and the role it plays in society. The concept of law was confused with those of morals and justice due to which the roman idea of jurisprudence is not quite famous in contemporary times.

Greek Thought

The Greeks mainly concentrated upon natural law and natural justice. The same can be inferred from the works of Greek philosophers such as Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Their ideas of natural justice and eternal justice helped in relating the idea of justice with that of law.

Ancient Indian Thought

The Hindu legal system is one of the most ancient legal systems of the world. It is based on the concept and philosophy of “Dharma”. The Hindu concept of dharma might appear to be similar to the natural school of jurisprudence. Dharma refers to the order set by nature and the adherence of human beings to such natural order. Dharma includes the concept of nyaya or justice. The term natural order implies to the cosmic order- the law which sustains the entire universe. The Hindus believed that dharma ensures that humans exist in harmony with the entire cosmos or universe.

The philosophy of Dharma is found to be encoded in various ancient Hindu texts known as the “Dharmashastras” (Code of Law). Some of the most important ones are:

  • Manu Smiritiit is the systematic collection of all rules of Dharma Shastras- covering all the branches of law then in force. The simple language and great clarity in its composition made the Manu Smriti the most authoritative source of ancient Hindu jurisprudence. 
  • Narada SmritiIt consists of both substantive as well as procedural laws.
  • Yajnavalkya Smriti
  • ArthashastraThe political treatise of Hindus

The modern Indian Legal System is based on the common law system. The ancient Hindu system is denounced greatly to ensure that the Indian state remains secular in nature. Thus, the ancient Hindu legal system has lost its relevance in the modern world.

With the advent of Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire in the early middle ages, the classical approach towards the study of jurisprudence lost its importance. The church was established as an important institution and religion took precedence over statutory law and even regulated it to some extent.  

Reformation Approach

As a response to the growing authority of the church over the State, the reformists emerged. These reformists restored the authority of the State back to its original condition and developed the ideas of secularism. With this, the ideas of individualism also emerged and the functions of the state were limited to the protection of three natural rights guaranteed to each and every human being- the right to life, right to liberty and right to property.

In the words of Sir William Blackstone, “the laws of nature laid down are such of authority that no human laws (that is laws made by man) are of any validity if they purport to contradict them.”

Thus, natural law was given precedence over positive law, which is, laws made by the State or a ‘sovereign’.  Notable philosophers who have contributed to the development of the reformist approach are Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Rousseau and Blackstone. The reformation approach towards the study of jurisprudence is relevant even today for one of the most important objectives of a democratic state is to protect the natural rights of its citizens.

Rationalism Approach

The Industrial Revolution changed the economic contours of Europe and left behind a dejected, poor and unemployed lower class which constituted a significant part of the total population. This led to the questioning of ideas of the reformation approach. Finally, the ideas of individualism gave way for the development of ideas of collectivism and social welfare. The rationalists gave tremendous powers to the State and led to the foundation of, what is today known as, the welfare state. This approach is quite popular today for almost every democratic state is a welfare state.

Modern Approach

As a response to the socialistic notions of law, the idea of analytical positivism emerged which gave importance to positive law over natural law. It was recognized that there exists no fixed scope and boundaries of jurisprudence and that it unnecessarily trenches into various other social sciences. Therefore, the positivists advocated upon restricting the subject to the study of positive law. Though this approach has gained some popularity, it has also received its own fair share of criticism. Adopting this approach in the study of jurisprudence and legal theory would reduce law to mere formalistic science, which may prove to be harmful to the society at large.

Conclusion

The different approaches towards the study of jurisprudence have led to the emergence of different schools of jurisprudence. The modern approach has led to the emergence of the analytical school, the reformation approach has led to the emergence of the natural school and the rationalism approach has contributed to the sociological school. Due to this, modern jurisprudence trenches into the fields of sociology and philosophy. It is submitted that only a combined adaptation of the various approaches towards the study of jurisprudence would give desirable results.


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