legalism

Legalism is a strict, literal interpretation of the law, with no consideration of specific circumstances.

In law, using legalism as a guiding principle means looking at established court decisions and congressional acts, then deciding cases based only on those. If a hungry person steals food, legalism would require a judge to find them guilty of theft based on established law, without any consideration of their specific circumstances. Legalism is derived from the Latin lex, "rule."

Definitions of legalism
  1. noun
    strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit
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    type of:
    conformism, conformity
    orthodoxy in thoughts and belief
Word Family
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