Jurisprudence is the science, study, and theory of law. It includes principles behind law that make the law. Scholars of jurisprudence, also known as jurists or legal theorists (including legal philosophers and social theorists of law), hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems, and of legal institutions. Modern jurisprudence began in the 18th century and was focused on the first principles of the natural law, civil law, and the law of nations. General jurisprudence can be divided into categories both by the type of question scholars seek to answer and by the theories of jurisprudence, or schools of thought, regarding how those questions are best answered. Contemporary philosophy of law, which deals with general jurisprudence, addresses problems in two rough groups:
Answers to these questions come from four primary schools of thought in general jurisprudence:
Also of note is the work of the contemporary philosopher of law Ronald Dworkin who has advocated a constructivist theory of jurisprudence that can be characterized as a middle path between natural law theories and positivist theories of general jurisprudence.
The English word is based on the Latin maxim jurisprudentia: juris is the genitive form of jus meaning "law", and prudentia means "prudence" (also: discretion, foresight, forethought, circumspection; refers to the exercise of good judgment, common sense, and even caution, especially in the conduct of practical matters). The word is first attested in English in 1628, at a time when the word prudence had the meaning of "knowledge of or skill in a matter". The word may have come via the French jurisprudence, which is attested earlier.
Ancient Indian jurisprudence is available in various Dharmaśāstra texts starting from the Dharmasutra of Bhodhayana. Jurisprudence already had this meaning in Ancient Rome even if at its origins the discipline was a (periti) in the jus of mos maiorum (traditional law), a body of oral laws and customs verbally transmitted "by father to son". Praetors established a workable body of laws by judging whether or not singular cases were capable of being prosecuted either by the edicta, the annual pronunciation of prosecutable offense, or in extraordinary situations, additions made to the edicta. An iudex then would judge a remedy according to the facts of the case.