Definition of formalism in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈfɔːm(ə)lɪz(ə)m/


1 [mass noun] Excessive 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 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.
1.2Concern 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.
1.3(In the theatre) a symbolic and stylized manner of production.
1.4The 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: there is a formalism which expresses the idea of superposition
More 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.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: for¦mal|ism

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Related Words