Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Relevance of Jurisprudence

The study of jurisprudence not only gives a renewed sense of meaning to the term ‘law’, but it also guides the student in understanding the intricacies of life. To the learned reader, the word ‘Jurisprudence’ results in an explosion of thoughts…

What we can safely hope to learn:

• The Definition of Law

The understanding and application of law, as it will be observed, is not a simple process of learning and regurgitating legal norms and rules. “He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth” said the Goethe, the philosopher. Similarly without knowing the history and present of evolution of law, one will never be able to claim to understand it and attempt to direct its course properly.

• Law and Morality

What are the origins of law? Should law be based on moral principles? If yes, where do these moral values emanate from? Is there a universal concept of morality/goodness that can form the basis of these laws? Is there a need for homogenization of morality in the world? The variety of cultures existing in this world make it very difficult to maintain a common standard of good and evil, moral and immoral. If law should not be made dependent on morality, does this legitimize for example, a rule that all blue eyed babies should be murdered? Should this law be followed and respected?

• The Scope of Law

What is Law’s social engineering potential? Does it guide people’s behaviour or do certain groups of persons get together at various points in time and mould the laws depending on other factors such as the economic situation? Karl Marx for example, explains in Das Capita how factory legislation was purposely tampered with to suit the needs of the bourgeois capitalists in order to further their economic aims.

• Law & Ideology

Is law based on ideologies such as equality, justice, freedom, fraternity etc? Are these ideologies important for the success of peace and order and respect for the law? Are these ideologies existent to suit the needs of certain people at any point in time?

• Natural law & Positivism

The popular Latin adage is “Lex injusta non est lex” ( an unjust law is not a law). Hence if law is not based on natural law, that is norms of a moral nature, then are we obliged to follow them? What about the army men under the tyrannical rule of the Nazis Reichstaag? Should they have obeyed the rule knowing it is unjust? (ref Nazi grudge informer cases)

• Teleological & Deontological approach to Law

Should law be directly influenced by the practical realities of life and the policies(teleological approach) of the government or should it be a ‘higher’ form of law by reflecting principles(deontological approach). Eg putting life of a person in a vegetative stage on life support systems to an end? Flood gates argument


1. Freeman, M D A., Lloyd’s Introduction to Jurisprudence, 7th ed. Sweet and Maxwell: UK
2. The dialogues of Plato
3. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder