Jurisprudence: Beyond Extinction?
Steven Douglas Smith
University of San Diego School of Law
August 22, 2007
San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-108
Of the various subjects of legal study, jurisprudence is the one in which the most momentous and profound questions about law are addressed, or in which, as Holmes put it, we might hope to "connect . . . with the universe and catch an echo of the infinite." Or so we might suppose . . . but it seems we would be wrong. In recent years, at least, the questions addressed under the headings of "jurisprudence" or "philosophy of law" hold little interest for any but the purest (i.e., the most incorrigibly academic) of theorists. It is hard to resist the impression that the questions are merely semantic, and that some of the most powerful minds in the profession are amusing themselves with word play.
How to account for this peculiar state of affairs? Is jurisprudence a dinosaur that has outlived its time? This essay, written for a general-audience symposium collecting short interpretations of the state of jurisprudence today, reflects on those questions, and suggests that classic jurisprudential claims and questions have been translated into a secular vocabulary and framework that deprive them of their meaning and significance.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 13
Keywords: Jurisprudence, Legal Philosophy, Secularism, Morality, Natural law, Legal Postivism
JEL Classification: K00, K1, K10
Date posted: August 25, 2007