Knowing what the rules are does not mean knowing what the law is.
Associate Professor Joshua Neoh has co-authored a new textbook with Emeritus Professor Nigel Simmonds (University of Cambridge) that takes law students on a journey of jurisprudence to find out what law is.
The sixth edition of Central Issues in Jurisprudence: Justice, Law and Rights (Sweet and Maxwell, 2022) provides a roadmap of the major theories and arguments in jurisprudence.
In this Q&A, Dr Neoh explains why he wrote the book, outlines its central themes, and emphasises the importance of studying jurisprudence.
What led you to write the sixth edition of Central Issues in Jurisprudence?
Jurisprudence addresses some of the most fundamental problems of the human condition. The journey that this book has taken over the years through the various editions shows that the task of understanding jurisprudence is always ongoing and never complete. Jurisprudence is an enduring inter-generational inquiry.
The book is now in its sixth edition, with me joining Nigel as a co-author. Professor Nigel Simmonds is the Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence and my former doctoral supervisor at Cambridge University. Just as Nigel imparted to me his knowledge of jurisprudence, so I try to do the same for my students through this book.
Why is there a need for a new edition for a textbook on jurisprudence?
Some readers may be surprised to learn that a jurisprudence textbook has editions. To those who think that only doctrinal law textbooks need new editions to update the law, jurisprudence textbooks must appear like fossils in a palaeontology museum.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Jurisprudence is not just alive; it is lively. Even if there were no new ground-breaking theories in the field, the minds of the authors of the textbook might have evolved and matured over time, which should then be reflected in a new edition.
What are the themes covered in the book?
This book is divided into three parts. First, it begins with the ideal of justice. Second, it looks at how that ideal of justice is realised through the institution of law. Third, it examines how the institution of law works through the mechanics of rights.
Why should knowledge of central issues in jurisprudence be an integral part of legal education?
The principal reason for studying jurisprudence is intellectual: the object of the enterprise is to achieve a clear understanding of what law is. Ask any lawyer what law is and my bet is that most would answer: “I know how to do it, but I don’t know what it is.” This is a curious state of affairs, and jurisprudence aims to rectify this glaring gap in understanding.
What is the key takeaway point that you hope readers will gain from reading this book?
That law is not just a laundry list of rules. Law is, first and foremost, a philosophical concept, which then gets actualised in a list of rules. Law consists of rules, but it is greater than the sum of its parts. Law is an idea that we live by and an ideal that we strive for.
How does this book relate to any other current projects or teaching you’re involved in?
I teach Legal Theory, which is another term for the ‘philosophy of law’, which is another term for, well, jurisprudence.
Central Issues in Jurisprudence: Justice, Law and Rights (Sweet and Maxwell, 2022) is available for order online. Purchase your copy here.