There is a currently pending tag wiki edit that seeks to limit to questions about the philosophy of law. That is not the prime connotation of the word as I understand it.

The edit looks OK, IF that is the desires meaning, but I am not at all sure that it is. I am not sure what the scope of this tag should be. Existing questions tagged with "jurisprudence" do not seem to fit that scope.

What should we use that tag for? Does it serve a useful purpose at all here on Law.SE?


4 Answers 4


The problem is that the word "jurisprudence" is often used in at least three, no four different senses.

  1. Theory of law This is the sense used in the Wikipedia article Jen linked to. It is IMO not quite the same as Philosophy of Law, but it is closely related. This seems close to what the edit proposed.
  2. Lines of Case Law Things like the Lochner line enshrining freedom of contract, or the line from Powell v Alabama to Gideon v. Wainwright for a right to appointed counsel, or the line from Near to the Pentagon Papers case for prior restraints, or any of many others. Thus is different from case law in general, I think
  3. Categories of Court Cases, as "patent jurisprudence" or "defamation jurisprudence"
  4. The whole enterprise of law.

An SE tag should naturally suggest its scope, if possible. Remember that when a user assigns a tag to a question, s/he often does not read the tag wiki. S/he often simply starts typing and takes a match that looks good, or remembers a useful tag. To be a useful search term, a tag must be limited, and must also be suggested by just the tag name, I think.

Therefore, I propose creating a new tag: theory-of-law, to cover the sense Jen suggests, and one lines-of-case-law perhaps with just case-law as a synonym, and burninate jurisprudence as a tag.

22 October 2022 Does this have enough support to start taking action on it?


I support David Siegel's answer, but I'll leave this here for context behind my initial motivation to split.

I propose to split the current usage of the tag into two tags:

  • jurisprudence: legal theory, philosophy of law, questions about originalism, natural law, the nature of legality, conflicts between law and ethics --- many of the questions currently tagged jurisprudence fit this sense of the word
  • case-law: the "jurisprudence" of courts; their body of law; lines of case authority, the medium of a common-law legal system

There are currently 51 questions tagged jurisprudence. On a rough assessment, it looks like about a third of the questions fit the first sense, a third fit the second sense, and another third just threw the tag in because it sounded generally law-y.

Here's why I propose this split:

  • In the traditional North American law school curriculum, the course titled "jurisprudence" and texts with that name in the title correspond to the "philosophy of law" sense of the word. E.g. Georgetown Law's jurisprudence stream of courses, Harvard's course entitled Jurisprudence, Roscoe Pound's Jurisprudence, Oxford's Professor of Jurisprudence has been reserved for professors with a research focus under this sense of the word (legal philosophy), including HLA Hart and Ronald Dworkin
  • This is how the Library of Congress classification system understands the topic jurisprudence as philosophy of law, under the K and KF schedules
  • The Wikipedia article titled "jurisprudence" focuses on the "philosophy of law" sense of the word. It recognizes the other, "case-law" sense, but just directs there using a disambiguation link.

Of course, this doesn't really matter. It's just an organizational suggestion. If we do keep them all under one tag, then the description should be expanded to say we're lumping both senses of the word under this one tag.


I have started retagging the questions formerly tagged . Six have been moved into the new tag , one into the new tag , two into the existing tag , and two into the new tag

I will not do any more today, because doing too many retags at once floods the homepage and the active questions display. More than 10 or 12 at a time is, I understand, generally a bad idea. I hsv also creates or updates tag wikis for the tags involved.



Jurisprudence does not mean the philosophy of law, at least, not exclusively. It means both the scientific/philosophical study of law and a legal system. Within those definitions, it can also be used to talk about a jurisprudence - a line of legal reasoning - like utilitarianism is a philosophy.

The reason that it is used by so many desperate questions is that it's a desperate topic. By all means, add additional tags to provide nuance but do not remove the catch-all - it has its use precisely because it is such a broad grab-bag of stuff.

While I understand your desire for precision, jurisprudence is not a precise concept and trying to force it to be is not the way language works.

  • 1
    That is precisely why I think it i useless as a tag, and why I am aimin g to remove it from all questions. To say that a question is tagged "jurisprudence" tells you nothing useful about the question. Ig you sesrched for questions so tagged, what would you be looking for? What would you expect to find? Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 5:59
  • Any and all of the above. Your argument against it is just as applicable to any general tag like common-law, United-states, or international-law
    – Dale M Mod
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 6:46
  • 1
    I disagree. A tag like united-states is useful, it singles out those threads that applyto the US and not, say to Europe. All the oth4es you mention select one well-defined group of threads and exclude others. "Jurisprudence" as a catchall could apply to any of the 24,000 questions on the site. It is currently used on only 40, and thoe 40 do not seem tohave anything particular in common. Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 15:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .