Printable Version
Pronunciation: -zhu-wis-tri, kæzh-wis-tri Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Sophistry, rationalization, specious or unsound reasoning on moral issues. 2. The resolution of moral questions by the application of ethical or religious principles.

Notes: Morality seems to invite immorality. The immorality of deceptive reasoning in this case seems to have overpowered the sense of sound moral reasoning. Someone who practices casuistry is a casuist, whose reasoning is casuistic(al), which is to say, a casuist reasons casuistically.

In Play: Someone claimed in The Penny Cyclopedia in 1836: "The science of casuistry has been termed not inaptly as 'the art of quibbling with God'." We have plenty of examples of casuistry today: "Putin tries to hide his hideous acts beneath a cover of casuistry, such as ridding Ukraine of Nazis."

Word History: Today's Good Word was created from the personal noun casuist, borrowed from French casuiste built on Latin casus "case", the noun usage of the past participle of cadere "to fall". The relation of case to (a) fall is still around in the Indo-European languages, as in German auf jeden Fall "in any case". Cadere was inherited from PIE kad- "to fall", source also of Sanskrit śaśada "has fallen", Welsh cesair "hail", Breton kazarc'h "hail", and Armenian chacnum "fallen". Another result of falling is a cadaver, the English word for which was taken whole from Latin. (Now a bow to a prolific contributor, Rob Towart, for suggesting today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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