JURISPRUDENCE AS THE PHILOSOPHY OR SCIENCE OF LAW
The subject-matter of jurisprudence asks about what is law, what is the law and an attempt to ask what should be the law. Our concern in this class is law in general.
Philosophy of law tries to equip us with the power with which to investigate the value implications of describing something as ‘legal’. This is why Jurisprudence is said to include principles behind law that make the law. Science also tries to discover the scientific truth using scientific methods. This writer is of the opinion that jurisprudence is assigned to philosophy because philosophy is the mother of all knowledge.
Lawyers are interested in lex lata (the law as it is) while jurists are interested in lex ferenda (the law as it should be). The language of law is unique to lawyers but it was borrowed from the philosophers. Apart from the language, there are other things borrowed from philosophy: ethics which is about morality, metaphysics especially ontology which deals with the essence of things. Teleology on the other hand deals with the functionality of the thing being defined. Semantics is the language used by lawyers in the discharge of their duties. Society is the laboratory for jurisprudence, empiricism is the methodology of social science.
Is law science? Law is not science because while law deals with prescription of human conduct in that it prescribes how people should behave (e.g. do not steal or else you will be incarcerated for three years), science deals with description of relationships between phenomena in that it establishes causal relationships between things. Also, lawyers deal with what ought to happen while scientists deal with what will happen. Furthermore, law regulates human conduct/behaviour so it can’t be encompassed with the principles of inanimate objects.
If law is science, it is a normative science which deals with “is” or “ought”. So the law we are studying if it is a science, it is part of social science and not the natural or physical science as it deals with human behaviour not animals.
We now turn to the scientific method of law as compared with the legal method. The scientific method proceeds from hypothesis through experimentation and induction to theory. Usually, a tentative proposition of what exists is made after which experiments (aimed at validating the falsity or truthfulness of the hypothesis) are then conducted. When this is found to be true, a theory is formulated which is tested and validated which becomes scientific law. It should be noted that all scientific tests are tentative and provisional and liable to possible refutation. Clearly, the more tests a hypothesis survives, the greater its explanatory power.
Thomas Kuhn in Lloyd’s Introduction to Jurisprudence noted that normal science means research firmly based upon one of more past scientific achievements, that is, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice.
Scientific laws postulate causal relationship; they are factual statements which describe the law and reality.