Tradition is belief or behavior with symbolic meaning or special significance and origins in the past.
- 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, in “The Ethics of Elfland,” Orthodoxy (1908), p. 85
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.
- William Kingdon Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" (1877)
- 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.
- Benjamin Disraeli, Speech in the House of Commons (22 February 1848)
- A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.
- T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods (1934). London: Faber and Faber, p. 19
- Tradition is a set of solutions for which we have forgotten the problems. Throw away the solution and you get the problem back.
- Donald Kingsbury, Courtship Rite (1982)
- When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow — you are not understanding yourself.
- Bruce Lee, in Tao of Jeet Kune Do (1975)
- Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there.
- Bruce Lee, in Tao of Jeet Kune Do (1975)
- Alongside the modern evils, we are oppressed by a whole series of inherited evils, arising from the passive survival of archaic and outmoded 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
- Belief has its structures, and its symbols change. Its tradition changes. All the relationships within these forms are inter-dependent. We look at the symbols, we hope to read them, we hope for sharing and communication.
- Muriel Rukeyser, in The Life of Poetry (1949), p. 96
- Traditions are answers that have been discovered to enduring questions.
- Roger Scruton, How to Be a Conservative (2014), p. 21
- You do not understand your own tradition if you do not see it in relation to others.
- John Searle, "The Storm Over the University", The New York Review of Books (6 December 1990)
- 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, The Fairy in Queen Mab (1813), Canto III, lines 97-100
- History teaches us that a given view has been abandoned in favor of another by all men, or by all competent men, or perhaps by only the most vocal men; it does not teach us whether the change was sound or whether the rejected view deserved to be rejected. Only an impartial analysis of the view in question, an analysis that is not dazzled by the victory or stunned by the defeat of the adherents of the view concerned—could teach us anything regarding the worth of the view and hence regarding the meaning of the historical change.
- Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (1953), p. 19
- 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.
- Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, p. 31