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Formalization means the process or result of formalizing something. Something is formalized by giving it a (strict) form , presenting it in a (strict) form or adhering to a predetermined (strict) form when it is carried out. Strict form means a written form, the characters of which are processed in a defined order in a defined manner.

From this general meaning, an epistemological and a cultural-scientific meaning can be distinguished.

Philosophy of science

In terms of philosophy of science, formalization in the broader sense means "the generalization of a (scientific) statement, disregarding its concrete-empirical references". In this sense, formalization is related to abstraction .

In a narrower sense, formalization means the description of a phenomenon or the formulation of a theory in a formal language , its axiomatization and - as the last stage - the calculation (see formalized theory ).

So which is mathematical logic characterized by formalization. A system of logic is formalized by disregarding the predetermined intention of the expressions occurring in it and using these expressions in exactly the sense that the axioms or the rules of this system prescribe. " Propositional logic and predicate logic can be seen as formalizations of everyday logical inference."

In linguistics, there are attempts by formal grammars such as the generative transformational grammar the natural language to describe.

Cultural studies

In the cultural-scientific sense, formalization can be used to describe the dissolution of targeted actions into repeatable and transferable procedural steps, as happens through the regulation of a process organization . The philosopher Sybille Krämer , closely following mathematics, speaks of a “typographical, schematic and interpretation-free use of symbols” that makes actions automatable.

The associated restriction of a personal and arbitrary procedure can have different intentions: It can be for reasons of transparency and equality (politics, law, mathematics) or for reasons of rationalization and automation (economy, military, technology, IT). Records are both the basis and the result of formalizations.

Related to formalization and historically inseparable from it is ritualization , in which strictly defined processes become a habit that gives emotional security (see rules of the game ). In an essay that has become famous , the anthropologist Horace Miner described the “ Nacirema ” tooth brushing as a magical ritual with a “higly formalized series of gestures”. The linguist Wolfgang Wildgen speaks of the fact that “(meaningless) partial actions” acquire a “meaningful function” through formalization and ritualization.


  • Sybille Krämer: Symbolic machines: the idea of ​​formalization in a historical outline , Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1988. ISBN 9783534032075

Web links

Wiktionary: formalization  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. dtv-Lexikon / Formalisierung, ISBN 3-423-05998-2
  2. Wilhelm Esser, Rosa Martínez, Joachim Labude: Fundamentals of logic I. The logical conclusion, Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 5th edition 2001, p. 76. ISBN 9783465031642
  3. ^ Arnim Regenbogen, Uwe Meyer: Dictionary of Philosophical Terms, Meiner, Hamburg 2006, p. XXX. ISBN 978-3-7873-2500-9
  4. Sybille Krämer: Symbolic machines: the idea of ​​formalization in a historical outline , Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1988, p. 2.
  5. Horace Miner: Body Ritual among the Nacirema , in: American Anthopologist , 58: 1956, pp. 503-507, here p. 504
  6. Wolfgang Wildgen: Cognitive grammar: classical paradigms and. Neue Perspektiven , Berlin: de Gruyter 2008, p. 27. ISBN 9783110196009