Jurisprudence is a key part of the study of law, although it is a word that may be completely foreign to someone who is not a student or practioner of law.
In simple terms, jurisprudence is the philosophy of law. Jurisprudence goes beyond what is often called the ‘black letter of the law’ and analyses the morality, thought and principals behind the law. Jurisprudence considers various legal ideas and analyses the practices of different legal systems throughout the world.
Jurisprudence as an area of study dates back as far as Aristotle and Thomas Acquinas.
Thomas Hobbes’ seminal text Leviathan is a fundemental part of jurisprudence. Hobbes argued that before the advent of society and the state, man was in a state of nature. This state of nature was brutal and life was miserable and cold. In the state of nature, one could be killed by another at any moment in the fight for resources.
Hobbes argued that man exchanged this life for a much more comfortable and safer one within society. The power to kill was transfered to the state, the all powerful Leviathan figure. The absolute obeyance of this authority figure was key to the organised and civilised nature of the state. The law had to be obeyed in exchange for the natsy and brutal life man endured in the state of nature.
A further key name within jurisprudence is John Stuart Mill. Mill wrote a seminal text on utilitarianism which argued that society should do whatever is best for the maximum number of people within society. This was a key idea within 19th century Victorian thinking and jurisprudence.