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Syllabification: for·mal·ism
Pronunciation: /ˈfôrməˌlizəm

Definition of formalism in English:


1Excessive adherence to prescribed forms: academic dryness and formalism
More example sentences
  • This inclination has developed the furthest in philosophy, political science, and economics, where most practitioners have adopted an otherworldly and self-referential formalism.
  • I am not going to argue for the virtues of formalism.
  • Fortunately, I grew out of the spell of legal formalism and its infantile over-simplifications.
1.1The use of forms of worship without regard to inner significance.
Example sentences
  • After decades of dead formalism in denominational churches, the charismatic movement seemed to bring great spiritual freedom.
  • He shared a nineteenth-century German dislike for religious formalism and ceremony.
  • Evangelicity, in other words, guards against ecclesial formalism by breaching the walls of institutional isolationism.
1.2The basing of ethics on the form of the moral law without regard to intention or consequences.
Example sentences
  • Analytic ethics has been very fairly impoverished given the postivist legacy of emotivism, the formalism of Kantian ethics and the technicalism of utilitarianism.
  • They explicitly disavow the classical philosophies of formalism, logicism, Platonism, intuitionism, and social constructivism.
  • Gadamer uses Kant's aesthetic formalism to illustrate this point.
1.3Concern or excessive concern with form and technique rather than content in artistic creation.
Example sentences
  • Judd's thesis augured the inevitable evolution of Modern art into pure formalism and object-ness.
  • In this way, neoclassicism's insistent formalism did little to close the gap between style and meaning.
  • A slew of sculptors have emerged in Los Angeles in the last few years, but most seem stuck in either constrictive formalism or murky surrealism.
1.5The treatment of mathematics as a manipulation of meaningless symbols.
Example sentences
  • The other basic version of formalism likens the practice of mathematics to a game played with linguistic characters.
  • He has also made this formalism more useful for practical calculations.
  • Brouwer emphasizes, as he had done in his dissertation, that formalism presupposes contentual mathematics at the metalevel.
2A description of something in formal mathematical or logical terms.
Example sentences
  • Yet the development of the general theory of relativity introduced Einstein to the power of abstract mathematical formalisms, notably that of tensor calculus.
  • The Maximum Likelihood section provides the details of the mathematical formalisms and computations.
  • Any attempt to disprove the theory of evolution using thermodynamics will require proper formalisms.



Example sentences
  • Here, as in his earlier pictures, he is a cool, meticulous formalist who favors full-to-long shots in which the camera remains stationary.
  • Touching but unsentimental, this poem provides yet more evidence that the best non-formal poetry is almost invariably produced by consummate formalists.
  • Formalists claim that legal realism is not true to the rule of law; realists respond that despite what formalists say, formalism isn't how the law really works.


Pronunciation: /ˌfôrməˈlistik/
Example sentences
  • ‘There are people who only emphasize the ritual and formalistic aspects of religious teachings, overlooking the true substance that lies behind them,’ he said.
  • In these days of focus on class, race, and gender, the subject would seem to many literary scholars far too abstract, artificial, philosophical, and formalistic to be worth pursuing.
  • Rather, they were obviously based on a commitment to a formalistic interpretation of ‘equal protection of the laws’ under the Fourteenth Amendment.

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