Any doctrine emphasizing form as against matter or content, especially in aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy of mathematics. (The term is not, however, normally used of a metaphysical preoccupation with Platonic or Aristotelian forms.)

In ethics formalism sees the value or rightness of an action in what kind of action it is (what formal description it satisfies) rather than in its consequences (also see: deontology, a commoner term).

For formalists in the philosophy of mathematics – followers of the German David Hilbert (1862-1943) – the objects of mathematics are mere marks (for example of ink or chalk) which are subjected to certain rules and arranged into formal systems; there is a certain connection with finitism, at least as a method.

S Korner, The Philosophy of Mathematics (1960), chs 4, 5

Formalism may refer to:

  • Form (disambiguation)
  • Formal (disambiguation)
  • Legal formalism, legal positivist view that the substantive justice of a law is a question for the legislature rather than the judiciary
  • Formalism (linguistics)
  • Scientific formalism
  • Formalism (philosophy), that there is no transcendent meaning to a discipline other than the literal content created by a practitioner
    • Religious formalism, an emphasis on the ritual and observance of religion, rather than its meaning.
    • Formalism (philosophy of mathematics), or mathematical formalism, that statements of mathematics and logic can be thought of as statements about the consequences of certain string manipulation rules.
    • Formalism (art), that a work’s artistic value is entirely determined by its form
      • Formalism (music)
      • Formalist film theory, focused on the formal, or technical, elements of a film
      • Formalism (literature)
        • New Formalism, a late-20th century movement in American poetry – sometimes called simply “Formalism”
        • Russian formalism, school of literary criticism in Russia from the 1910s to the 1930s
      • New Formalism (architecture), a mid-20th century architectural style, sometimes abbreviated to Formalism

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