The term formalism describes an emphasis on form over content or meaning in the arts, literature, or philosophy. A practitioner of formalism is called a formalist. A formalist, with respect to some discipline, holds that there is no transcendent meaning to that discipline other than the literal content created by a practitioner. For example, formalists within mathematics claim that mathematics is no more than the symbols written down by the mathematician, which is based on logic and a few elementary rules alone. This is as opposed to non-formalists, within that field, who hold that there are some things inherently true, and are not, necessarily, dependent on the symbols within mathematics so much as a greater truth. Formalists within a discipline are completely concerned with "the rules of the game," as there is no other external truth that can be achieved beyond those given rules. In this sense, formalism lends itself well to disciplines based upon axiomatic systems.
Famous quotes containing the word formalism:
“It is sentimentalism to assume that the teaching of life can always be fitted to the childs interests, just as it is empty formalism to force the child to parrot the formulas of adult society. Interests can be created and stimulated.”
—Jerome S. Bruner (20th century)