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Tradition and traditionalism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S063-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

Tradition is that body of practice and belief which is socially transmitted from the past. It is regarded as having authority in the present simply because it comes from the past, and encapsulates the wisdom and experience of the past. For some, the very idea of tradition is anathema. It is characteristic of modernity to reject the authority of the past in favour of the present deployment of reason, unencumbered by tradition or prejudice. While prior to the seventeenth century tradition was largely unquestioned as a source of insight, and in need of no defence, since the Enlightenment the notion of tradition has been defended by traditionalists such as Burke and, more recently, Hayek. Upon inspection, however, traditionalism, if not indefensibly irrational, turns out to be a demonstration of the overlooked rationality contained within traditions. Traditions often turn out upon inspection to be not so much irrational as subtle and flexible deployments of reason in particular spheres.

Citing this article:
O’Hear, Anthony. Tradition and traditionalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S063-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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