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Casuistry (Latin casus : "case"; cf. also " case ") generally refers to the consideration of individual cases in a certain specialist area.


The term casuistry can be found in various scientific disciplines, in particular in law , philosophical ethics and medicine .


Casuistry is a legal system in which the current legal situation is not based on abstract legal norms ( laws , ordinances ), but on earlier court decisions ( prejudices ). Casuistry is shaped by judicial law and not by statutory law . The starting point is the individual case ("casus"), which is generalized in the legal norm. The word "casus" comes from Roman law , which condensed a large number of individual cases and raised them to general rules. Casuistry forces the subsumption of the individual case under previous, decided by courts other individual cases (precedents) to develop a "right" decision deduce . By Case report, however, necessarily arise loopholes represented by general clauses be largely prevented or abstract language laws in statutory law. However, no legal system can ultimately completely dispense with case-related casuistry. The generalization ( abstraction ) in laws, however, harbors the danger that they become meaningless and apply to more life facts than corresponded to the original will of the law.

Anglo-American case law and Islamic law (“ Sharia ”) have remained casuistic to this day and are intended on the one hand to prevent normativity and formalism that is alien to life , on the other hand they run the risk of becoming confusing. But even in casuistry, abstract rules and principles develop over time through the accumulation of many individual cases. Casuistic approaches can be found in German law in particular where the legislation lags behind the current, rapidly changing life situation. This is especially the case in tax law , commercial law or media law .

Advantages and disadvantages of case studies:

Advantage or disadvantage Casuistic standards Principles-based standards
advantages Attention to detail only conceptual specifications
disadvantage high overall scope of the set of rules high level of abstraction

Philosophical ethics and Catholic moral theology

In philosophical ethics and in Catholic moral theology , casuistry is the part of moral doctrine that determines correct behavior for possible cases of practical life on the basis of a system of commandments. The casuistry, which comes from the repertoire of practical philosophy, is not to be understood uniformly. On the one hand, the term describes in the broader sense an empirical process that proceeds according to analogies and similarities; on the other hand, it is understood here in the narrower sense as subsumption according to logical laws.


Clinical medicine uses the term to describe individual, often paradigmatic and propaedeutic case descriptions in the course of illnesses ( patient stories , narrative medicine ). The analysis of individual cases and their assessment are seen as the sole source of knowledge. If general principles become recognizable, they only gain plausibility from individual cases. The direction of analysis is inductive .

Educational language

According to Duden, casuistry is an educational term for splitting hairs , subtle argumentation or twisting words .

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Honecker: Introduction to theological ethics . 2002, p. 170 f.
  2. Martin Honecker: Introduction to theological ethics . 2002, p. 171.
  3. ^ Stefan Hofmann: Handbook Anti-Fraud-Management . 2008, p. 183.
  4. ^ Robert Jütte : From the medical case to the medical history. In: Reports on the History of Science 15, 1992, pp. 50–52.
  5. Boris Zernikow: Palliative care for children, adolescents and young adults . 2008, p. 48.