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Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal philosophers, hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions. As jurisprudence has developed, there are three main aspects with which scholarly writing engages:

  • natural law is the idea that there are unchangeable laws of nature which govern us, and that our institutions ought to match this natural law
  • analytic jurisprudence asks questions like, "what is law?" "What are the criteria for legal validity?" or "what is the relationship between law and morality?" are other questions that legal philosophers may engage with
  • normative jurisprudence asks what law should be like. It overlaps with moral and political philosophy, and includes questions of whether we should obey the law, on what grounds law-breakers might properly be punished, the proper uses and limits of regulation

Modern jurisprudence and philosophy of law is dominated today primarily by Western academics. The ideas of the Western legal tradition have become so pervasive throughout the world that it is tempting to see them as universal. Historically, however, many philosophers from other traditions have discussed the same questions, from Islamic scholars to the ancient Greeks.

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