What Are the Different Schools of Jurisprudence?

The four schools of jurisprudence are realism, naturalism, formalism and positivism, according to Legal Dictionary. The distinctions between these schools overlap, and legal scholars often combine elements of more than one.

Legal realists believe that judges must attempt to balance the interests of both parties in a case and come to a decision that may be influenced by their own economic, psychological and political views, states Legal Dictionary. Legal formalism defines the law like science or math, as though judges operate as impartial arbitrators who rely solely on logic. Positivists believe that laws derive exclusively from legislative bodies and courts and have no relation to social or moral values. Naturalists hold that laws are established within a framework that includes religion, reason, philosophy and individual conscience.

In addition to the schools of jurisprudence, four types of jurisprudence exist, explains Legal Dictionary. Jurisprudence refers to the philosophy of law, and the most common type is the analytical approach that textbooks and legal encyclopedias represent. A second type of jurisprudence compares law to other areas of study such as religion, literature and economics. Another type of jurisprudence attempts to place various legal concepts in a moral, cultural and historical context. The fourth type of jurisprudence is dedicated to abstract questions about the substance of law and how judges rule correctly.