Etymology
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formalism (n.)

1840, "strict adherence to prescribed forms," from formal + -ism. Used over the years in philosophy, theology, literature, and art in various senses suggesting detachment of form from content, or spirituality, or meaning; or belief in the sufficiency of formal logic. Related: Formalist.

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Definitions of formalism

formalism (n.)
the doctrine that formal structure rather than content is what should be represented;
formalism (n.)
(philosophy) the philosophical theory that formal (logical or mathematical) statements have no meaning but that its symbols (regarded as physical entities) exhibit a form that has useful applications;
formalism (n.)
the practice of scrupulous adherence to prescribed or external forms;
From wordnet.princeton.edu