Tradition

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Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. ~ G. K. Chesterton
The main purpose of the tradition itself is to supply us with the means of asking questions. ~ William Kingdon Clifford
The king ... like the vulgar, thinks, feels, acts, and lives just as his father did; the unconquered powers of precedent and custom interpose between a king and virtue. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Tradition is belief or behavior with symbolic meaning or special significance and origins in the past.

Quotes[edit]

  • Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
  • The time-honoured tradition of the human race ... is around and about us and within us; we cannot think except in the forms and processes of thought which it supplies. Is it possible to doubt and to test it? and if possible, is it right?

    We shall find reason to answer that it is not only possible and right, but our bounden duty; that the main purpose of the tradition itself is to supply us with the means of asking questions, of testing and inquiring into things; that if we misuse it, and take it as a collection of cut-and-dried statements to be accepted without further inquiry, we are not only injuring ourselves here, but, by refusing to do our part towards the building up of the fabric which shall be inherited by our children, we are tending to cut off ourselves and our race from the human line.

  • Precedents are not mere dusty phrases, which do not substantially affect the question before us. A precedent embalms a principle. The principle may be right or may be wrong—that is a question for discussion; but at the first glance it is right to conclude that it is a principle that has been acted upon and recognised by those who preceded us.
  • A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.
    • T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods (1934). London: Faber and Faber, p. 19
  • Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there.
  • Alongside the modern evils, we are oppressed by a whole series of inherited evils, arising from the passive survival of archaic and out modes modes of production, with their accompanying train of anachronistic social and political relations. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead
    • Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1
  • Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.
    • Jaroslav Pelikan, in "Christianity as an enfolding circle," U.S. News & World Report (June 26, 1989), p. 57
  • The king ...
    like the vulgar, thinks, feels, acts, and lives
    Just as his father did; the unconquered powers
    Of precedent and custom interpose
    Between a king and virtue.
  • Our understanding of the thought of the past is liable to be the more adequate, the less the historian is convinced of the superiority of his own point of view, or the more he is prepared to admit the possibility that he may have to learn something, not merely about the thinkers of the past, but from them.
    • Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (1959), p. 68
  • “Our ideas” are only partly our ideas. Most of our ideas are abbreviations or residues of the thought of other people, of our teachers (in the broadest sense of the term) and of our teachers’ teachers; they are abbreviations and residues of the thought of the past. These thoughts were once explicit and in the center of consideration and discussion. It may even be presumed that they were once perfectly lucid. By being transmitted to later generations they have possibly been transformed, and there is no certainty that the transformation was effected consciously and with full clarity. … This means that the clarification of our political ideas insensibly changes into and becomes indistinguishable from the history of political ideas.
    • Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (1959), p. 73
  • It is of the essence of traditions that they cover or conceal their humble foundations by erecting impressive edifices on them.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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