Definition of formalism in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Excessive adherence to prescribed forms.

    ‘academic dryness and formalism’
    • ‘A general consensus exists as to his anxiety to shed a load of cultural baggage - academic formalism, received ideas and above all the debased French tradition of naive musical imitations of nature.’
    • ‘The other influence is the realization that formalism is ‘a dead-end street.’’
    • ‘This inclination has developed the furthest in philosophy, political science, and economics, where most practitioners have adopted an otherworldly and self-referential formalism.’
    • ‘The transactional interpretation would then have to be considered in the context of such a revised formalism to decide if a conflict exists.’
    • ‘Our ability to make these judgments is critically important, because it opens the door to constitutional formalism - the depoliticization of the process of constitutional adjudication.’
    • ‘I am not going to argue for the virtues of formalism.’
    • ‘That would be formalism, which is either arid or else, in some kind of complicated, sinister, paranoid way, connected to the oppressive operations of a mysterious power group.’
    • ‘Fortunately, I grew out of the spell of legal formalism and its infantile over-simplifications.’
    • ‘The military's formalism and self-regard has often made it the butt of civilian humour.’
    • ‘Having conquered New Zealand years ago the army is beginning to lose its elan and ferocity and is drifting into empty formalism and bureaucratisation.’
    • ‘Will high culture drive into the cul-de-sac of formalism, preferring museality to the contaminations of experience?’
    • ‘From the highest to the lowest, all were entangled in a subtle web of mutual espionage, and every element of individuality was crushed under the weight of unbending formalism.’
    • ‘Financial services in Bulgaria are still branded by formalism, bureaucracy and lack of interest, analysts said.’
    • ‘Now I love formalism, if it reaches sensible results, and if it rests on formal distinctions that make sense.’
    • ‘When judging legal cases, British courts have a long tradition of formalism.’
    • ‘Here, surely, is a prime example of how formalism makes economists impervious to the evidence.’
    • ‘Shanghai is making government administration more transparent to its citizens, while firmly doing away with formalism and bureaucratism.’
    • ‘As a quasi-court, the OEB is all legal formalism.’
    • ‘Powell's formalism is not only distended and sonic, but also the product of subtly tailored typography and syntax.’
    • ‘The name of Cambridge, and the global reputation of the university, offer a unique opportunity for the architecture school to lead on the world scale as a proponent of an alternative credo to the obscuratism and formalism of other schools.’
    conventionality, traditionalism, orthodoxy, fitting in, following the crowd, running with the pack, swimming with the stream
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    1. 1.1The use of forms of worship without regard to inner significance.
      • ‘Evangelicity, in other words, guards against ecclesial formalism by breaching the walls of institutional isolationism.’
      • ‘He shared a nineteenth-century German dislike for religious formalism and ceremony.’
      • ‘Juridical formalism is but a substitute for religious formalism.’
      • ‘The Bishop is not just being a slave to formalism.’
      • ‘After decades of dead formalism in denominational churches, the charismatic movement seemed to bring great spiritual freedom.’
    2. 1.2The basing of ethics on the form of the moral law without regard to intention or consequences.
      • ‘Waismann criticized both logicism and formalism.’
      • ‘But I was interested in the degree to which his vision was essentially pragmatist, or to be more specific, formalism justified by pragmatism.’
      • ‘But at least it's better than formalism, logicism, intuitionism, constructivism or Platonism.’
      • ‘For students steeped in late classical formalism, myself included, Lachmann's message of radical subjectivism was strange stuff indeed.’
      • ‘Throughout his career, Sturr integrated pristine formalism with a tender humanism.’
      • ‘They explicitly disavow the classical philosophies of formalism, logicism, Platonism, intuitionism, and social constructivism.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When it comes to the philosophical issue of the nature of truth, most mathematicians fall into one of two camps called formalism and Platonism.’
      • ‘Gadamer uses Kant's aesthetic formalism to illustrate this point.’
      • ‘Despite the substantial contributions he had made to topology by this time, Brouwer chose to give his inaugural professorial lecture on intuitionism and formalism.’
      • ‘Analytic ethics has been very fairly impoverished given the postivist legacy of emotivism, the formalism of Kantian ethics and the technicalism of utilitarianism.’
    3. 1.3Concern or excessive concern with form and technique rather than content in artistic creation.
      • ‘Geczy's basic argument is that craft without an idea is simple formalism, a naïve tendency that can lead to all sorts of dark consequences.’
      • ‘Desolation has become global and the photographer's world is decidedly anchored in formalism.’
      • ‘Here, he used the intimacy of video to infiltrate the intense, distancing formalism of modernist dwellings and let us peer into some fanciful dramas unfolding within them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Coercive, manipulative attempts to recur to the symbolic (to enlist the unconscious mind) end in dead formalism, like bad adolescent prose and most modern poetry.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Artists guilty or suspected of formalism were persecuted and encouraged to make public recantations for their offences.’
      • ‘In this fertile period he has embraced aspects of classicism, formalism, surrealism and most obviously, postmodernism.’
      • ‘His music combined dazzling bursts of musical light with Gallic elegance and the rigorous formalism of a classicist.’
      • ‘This essay praised Propp's work, but pointed out that the problem with formalism was its policy of ignoring thematic content.’
      • ‘If we could just appreciate the rightness of formalism over ‘ideas’ then we'd be on the right track.’
      • ‘The brothers are often accused of empty formalism, offering up homages to film genres but lacking soul.’
      • ‘They used their bodies to challenge modernist formalism, traditional relationships between artist and medium, and the boundaries between artist, spectator, and mass culture.’
      • ‘In its hostility towards formalism, Performance art related to other contemporary movements, including Conceptual art and Environmental art.’
      • ‘This latest show, however, confirms that his art is still resolutely factual and transparent, and his commitment to a kind of painterly formalism undiminished.’
      • ‘The rival personae can contradict each other, so that the poetry is pulled one way and the other, between the extremes of sterile formalism and sloganeering.’
      • ‘The best work on the show fluctuates between two greatly differing styles, one a kind of elemental formalism, the other a figurative, narrative post-modernism.’
      • ‘Though the Hives open themselves up to style-over-substance gripes, there is real feeling amidst their artifice and formalism.’
      • ‘Seeing as how pop music thrives on various levels of artifice, questions of authenticity aren't typically worth the effort, but it's hard not to hear more formalism than feeling in these rustic songs.’
    4. 1.4(in the theatre) a symbolic and stylized manner of production.
    5. 1.5The treatment of mathematics as a manipulation of meaningless symbols.
      • ‘He has also made this formalism more useful for practical calculations.’
      • ‘The other basic version of formalism likens the practice of mathematics to a game played with linguistic characters.’
      • ‘Brouwer emphasizes, as he had done in his dissertation, that formalism presupposes contentual mathematics at the metalevel.’
      • ‘He approaches the subject with a physics-first attitude that allows the student to get to the fun parts without spending months learning formalism.’
      dogmatism, purism, literalism, formalism
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  • 2A description of something in formal mathematical or logical terms.

    ‘there is a formalism which expresses the idea of superposition’
    • ‘Some subjectivity exists in the choice between models having few parameters, which favour the accuracy of their estimation, and more complex formalisms that are generally required to express ideas on biological processes.’
    • ‘But, in the past, technology ended up generating objects - while science ended up generating rules and embedding them or expressing them in formalisms.’
    • ‘A synergy between the development of theoretical formalisms, modeling and experimental work is fundamental to addressing the nanoelectronic challenges.’
    • ‘The most simple formalisms link crop growth to fertilization regime or to time, expressed in days or in time units (cumulative degree-days) from sowing.’
    • ‘Let us illustrate how a control strategy can be described qualitatively, using typical formalisms in qualitative physics.’
    • ‘However, the formalisms that I'd learned in 1968 were out of date, and I understood only vaguely what the new ideas were and how they had been motivated.’
    • ‘The Maximum Likelihood section provides the details of the mathematical formalisms and computations.’
    • ‘These logical formalisms are applied and tested in applications in other sciences, in everyday phenomena or in logic and mathematics themselves.’
    • ‘Yet the development of the general theory of relativity introduced Einstein to the power of abstract mathematical formalisms, notably that of tensor calculus.’
    • ‘A wide range of plant-modeling formalisms is possible, depending on the category of system being controlled.’
    • ‘Qualitative modeling provides formalisms for expressing intuitive, causal models and the reasoning techniques needed to generate predictions and explanations from them for helping students see the consequences of their ideas.’
    • ‘Your proposal, therefore, has to give us a finite theory which combines these two formalisms.’
    • ‘It argues that qualitative formalisms and reasoning engines provide the means necessary to support learners in developing such conceptual models.’
    • ‘These formalisms do not adequately describe cases where the enzyme or substrate are membrane bound.’
    • ‘In the following subsections, we present the mathematical structures and focus on the mathematical soundness of the formalisms.’
    • ‘The mathematics of self-reference involves creating formalisms to reflect the strange situation in which something produces A, which produces B, which produces A.’
    • ‘Lachmann asked modern Austrians to rebel against the equilibrium models and logical formalisms of contemporary economic reasoning.’
    • ‘Any attempt to disprove the theory of evolution using thermodynamics will require proper formalisms.’
    • ‘This article highlights the mathematical foundations of formalisms proposed to mimic human qualitative reasoning along with potential and limitations.’
    • ‘Pi-calculus and related formalisms are complex, but business people couldn't care less about formalisms.’