Just What Do you Mean — Legalism?

Today anyone who talks about “law” is almost immediately labeled a “legalist” or one who engages in “legalism.”  It’s so easy for this to happen because the word “legal,” says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “of or relating to the law.”  It also means “conforming to or permitted by law or established rules.”

The word “legal” comes from the Latin root lex (law) and the derivative form legis or legalis.  From this form we also derive the word “legislature,” which the same dictionary defines as “a group of people with the power to make or change laws.”  That group of people is said to have the power to “legislate”  — to make laws, particularly for a political unit.  “Legislation” is the act of making laws and rules, as well as changing or amending them.  This same dictionary defines “legalism” as: “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.”

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