Tradition Revisited
by Flavius (e-mail:

It was certainly flattering to find that the Liberator took the time to read and draft a reply to my article Defending the Indefensible, called In Defense of Change.

The Liberator's response started with a curious attack on tradition, or "unquestionable tradition." Interestingly, the notion of unquestionable tradition was never mentioned or defended in the original article. However, a reference to the American political tradition was made in the first paragraph. Therefore, a short discussion about the meaning of 'tradition' seems to be in order.

The test by which one can judge the appropriateness of a particular tradition will always be some other tradition, which for the purpose at hand is regarded as unquestionable! The nihilistic tradition of destroying all other traditions is clearly unquestioned by the Liberator. Perhaps it is time that this unquestionable tradition be questioned. It is not maintained here that every tradition is sacred and exempt from criticism, but merely that the basis for criticism of any one product of tradition must always be another tradition which one either cannot or will not question, e.g., the Liberator's process.

The Liberator's overly broad use of the word 'tradition' needs to be reigned in. What the word 'tradition' means, one can ascertain only from what those who use the word in shaping their arguments intend it to mean. The Liberator does not advance the purpose of analysis by attaching to 'tradition' some overly broad meaning that covers all uses ever made of the word. For example, to compare conviction in an "American political tradition" to belief in a Ptolemaic solar system, a flat Earth or book banning only obfuscates meaningful analysis by insisting that different uses of the word must be brought under the same definition.

Tradition is not a vulgar word. It is simply the transmission of accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next. Tradition represents the transmission and development of ideas and practices that have prevailed because they were successful. Tradition is not something constant but the product of a process of selection guided by success. It changes but rarely can it be deliberately changed. Tradition provides a framework, or point of reference, for continuing analysis of our traditions.

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