A Critique of Tradition

by practicalspactical

Just because it is old does not mean that it is good. In fact, one may have a standing presumptive suspicion of tradition, in the sense that the formers of the tradition did so with less information then is available to you.  (Unless you are now reasoning from a point of less available information — i.e., Charlemagne’s Aachen instead of Aurelius’ Rome.)

At the same time, one must be humble to one’s own place. We may be less ignorant, but we are not more wise. Therefore, there is likely much in tradition worth salvaging, however unfashionable, garish, or wrong its trappings.

See, e.g. Abraham Lincoln, Cooper Union Speech


I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience – to reject all progress – all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.”)