Introduction to Jurisprudence
The word jurisprudence is divided into two terms “Juris” which means Legal and “Prudentia” which means Knowledge or skill. Every jurist in the past defines or answers the above-mentioned question to their understanding of the law and accordingly, we have categorized them into 5 schools of jurisprudence, one such school of jurisprudence is the Natural Law school of Jurisprudence. In this article, we will be focusing on the Natural School of Jurisprudence.
What is the Natural Law School of Jurisprudence?
According to the Natural law school of jurisprudence, some laws are universal in nature, which means they are unchangeable and eternal. These laws are unaffected by human beliefs and behaviour and they embody the principle of morality and natural justice. According to the natural school of jurisprudence, an unjust law is not considered a law. This law is also known as the Moral/divine law, the law of reason, or the law of God.
The school of jurisprudence can be categorized based on 2 propositions of knowledge:-
- A Prior preposition – A Prior proposition means knowledge of laws will be acquired independently without any particular experience
- A Posterior preposition – A Posterior preposition knowledge means knowledge will be acquired with experience.
Natural law is based on the proposition of “prior knowledge”, which will be gained by yourself without any experience.
The Natural law thinkers gave their theories between these 4 periods:-
- The Ancient Periodthe
- The Medieval period
- The Renaissance period
- The Modern Period.
Ancient period (2000- 2500 years ago)
The jurist of the ancient period belongs to Greece and Rome. The jurists who belonged to Greece were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Socrates was the teacher of Plato and Plato was the teacher of Aristotle. And jurists who belonged to Rome were Zeno and Cicero.
He defined the concept of Virtue which means that every person has a good character inside him and he must use it to critically analyze the positive laws.
He developed the theory of the Socratic Method according to which everyone should look towards law and critically analyze the same with reasoning and logic and this process will help them to find loopholes in the laws and also help them to fulfil the necessary principles in the law.
One of the best facts about the Socratic Method is our Scientific method which is inspired by the same.
Plato gave the concept of the Doctrine of Forms, which means forms as in the natural laws will exist independently of the physical world, it is independent of the human mind and independent of time and place and space. For Plato the forms of goodness, virtue, and honesty are eternal and unchanging because all persons have these forms in equal measures, we need to just identify this form.
Some of his famous works are The Trial and Death of Socrates, The Republic, Apology, and The Symposium.
Aristotle founded the natural school based on reason, the reason which is not affected by desires. he believed that law is either universal or special perfect law is inherent like a man and is immutable, universal, and capable of growth. According to him, every form is a form of some other thing, he says that a form exists but does not get satisfied with Plato’s form theory. Some jurists were also present in Rome who gave their opinions on these forms. They are Zeno and Cicero, let’s loom upon their thoughts one by one
He was the one who after reading the philosophies of Socrates founded the concept of “Stoicism” where he along with his students studied and discussed theories. This idea highly inspired the Roman empire and they included this concept and made it a branch of the natural law theory.
The Romans then divided the laws categorizing into, Jus civile, jus Naturalis, and jus gentium. Among these, Jus gentium became the first form of international law as it was the first-ever law that was applicable to international citizens.
He also gave the ideology of the law as already present in nature which itself explains to us the order and command of the world.
Medieval period (10th-12th century)
The philosophers of this period related the law with religion which gave them the name of theologists and the theories given by them were more logical and systematic. Most prominent among them was “Thomas Aquinas”.
He divided the law into 4 stages Law of God, Natural Law, Divine Law, and Humans laws. He said that divine law is the one which is the interpretation of scriptures given by the church, which he said is the supreme law. And, all-natural laws must confer with the positive laws, otherwise, they will be held invalid.
Renaissance period (14th-17th century)
This era embarks the development of modern law and different fields were developed in this period including that of law. It is marked by the famous “social contract theory”, wherein there is a state of nature that does not have any rights and duties on anyone, and a contract is entered into by the people together with making certain obligations as rights and enforcing certain duties on everyone. This simply means if there is a right to educate, there is also a duty on everyone to not deprive any person of getting an education.
This theory was majorly explained by three philosophers- Hobbes, John Locke, and Jacques Rousseau.
He explains the social contract by a “state” which has all the rights and is given the duty to protect all its citizens, in other words, supreme authority is made which takes care of its people. However, the authority given is absolute and nobody can take away this authority from them, which he also compared with the sea monster “Leviathan”.
Unlike Hobbes, John Locke focused more on the individual rights of the people including the right of having Liberty of choosing the government with the power of overthrowing them if not found protecting the rights of the people. This also included of Right to the property to every person. His idea of sovereignty was that the powers confided in the government must not be absolute. His famous book “Two treaties of government” has all the work of his.
He laid down to focus on the rights of the community as a whole and not only to individual rights. He gave the theory of will which said that the government should adhere to the benefits and what is right for the community as one and lay rights and duties accordingly.
Medieval Period (19th- 21st century)
During the 19th century, the concept of natural law theory started declining due to the political changes that were taking place in Europe. More political reasoning and scientific method started prevailing in society.
According to him the concept of inherent values are not true in natural law school, along with that the procedures of giving justice to the people vary from one place to the person, depending on the understanding of the country’s own legislation and judicial system. If all the laws and judicial systems would be the same then there would have been no interpretation of law throughout the world.
John Austin also refused the concept of natural law school, according to him, the state has the right to make rules and regulations for the welfare of society. He refuses to accept the Social Contract theory and was of the view that it is the state who has the power to force one to obey the laws, and that is ultimately a real law according to him.
With the passing of time and during the end of the 20th century the concept of natural law theory again started prevailing in society, the society felt the need for natural law school.
He gave the concept of hybrid theory consisting of both the analytical school as well as the natural law school. According to him, every country will have different rules and regulations based on the concept of analytical school but every country does follow the analytical school ultimately to have fair justice and peace in the society which is the basis of natural law school.
Law in itself is considered very wide, and there is no single definition of law that can be considered properly valid. Every definition is criticized for its flaws, in the early period when jurists used to interpret the definition of law, they were differentiated on the basis of their definition but no jurist has taken any kind of membership in these schools, these school has been made by the current people to differentiate these jurists on the basis of their definition of law.
The difference in the definition of law keeps on changing with changing time, nature and scope of the jurist. The thinker has defined law based on the circumstances of their time, the need for the law would be different at that time compared to today’s needs. Every school of jurisprudence have their own understanding of law according to its time. As time changes, the need for the law would be different so no single definition of law can be applicable to everyone at all times.