- The purpose of something that is intended.
- law - The state of someone’s mind at the time of committing an offence.
The purpose of something that is intended
- Finnish: aikomus, aie
- Kurdish: [ئامانج]
The state of someone’s mind at the time of committing an offence}}
- Finnish: aikomus
- firmly fixed or concentrated on something.
- unwavering from a course of action.
The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, he is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, he is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not adhering to the literal wording.
"Law" originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Following the letter of the law but not the spirit is also a tactic used against an oppressive government.
Pro and con
Following the spirit of the law but not the letter is generally viewed more favorably than following the letter but not the spirit. In a court of law, judges usually review the intent of the players involved.
Authoritarians tend to view "following the spirit" negatively as disobeying the law. The reason is that the actual intent of the law may be ambiguous, and allowing anyone to follow his own interpretation of the law may result in anarchy.
In the New Testament, Pharisees are seen as people who place the letter of the law above the spirit (Mark 2:3–28, 3:1–6). Thus, "Pharisee" has entered the language as a pejorative for one who does so; the Oxford English Dictionary defines Pharisee with one of the meanings as A person of the spirit or character commonly attributed to the Pharisees in the New Testament; a legalist or formalist. This negative view of the historical Pharisees is disputed by non-Christians.
Gaming the system
Gaming the system, also called "rules lawyering", is related to following the letter but not the spirit of the law. It is used negatively to describe the act of manipulating the rules to achieve a personal advantage. It may also mean acting in an antisocial, irritating manner while technically staying within the bounds of the rules.
- The Spirit of the Laws, the 1748 political theory treatise by Montesquieu
- Rules lawyer
- Positive law & Natural law