I’m continuing my reporting on the next installment from Conservative Estimate, the recently founded website that is devoted to demolishing Conservatism.
Yesterday, Alfred George completed his discussion of the Myth of Religion, and showed that Religion can play a useful role in society, as long as it does not try to impose its particular beliefs on society as a whole. He also pointed out that those who believe in the Myth of Religion (that Religion is the source of morality in society) also tend to value Tradition highly, since both seem to draw their inspiration from the past.
Today, he begins to examine the Myth of Tradition, the belief that Tradition is the repository of wisdom gleaned from the past and the cornerstone of stability in society.
Let’s take the walk over the orangeries to look at his argument . . .
Mr. George begins by noting that believers in this Myth imagine that Tradition is the locus of everything that has been shown to “work” in society over the millennia of human history.
Believers in this Myth lean on habits and customs handed down from their parents and ancestors. They regard such habits and customs as the standards by which life is to be lived. This saves a great deal of time and effort. They don’t have to think through every important issue of life for themselves.In order to believe this, supporters have to imagine that Tradition presents them with eternal truths, which they can simply implement as their ancestors did. This, unfortunately, is an error, if not also a rationalization:
There can be no guarantee that any particular tradition is an eternal verity. And the very use of this justification usually implies that a challenge has arisen to confront the presumed verity.Mr. George then points out that, even if the teachings of Tradition are of great antiquity, that does not make them true.
[N]either the length of time a custom has existed nor its putative utility are the most important factors in judging its value. A practice can be both traditional and foolish, traditional and unjust, traditional and irrational.You can read the whole post here.
For instance, slavery was a long-standing and utilitarian practice. But it had to be eliminated, because it was fundamentally unjust. Justice, to name just one thing, trumps Tradition.
On Monday, Mr. George will show that Tradition cannot be relied upon implicitly, because, even though it may contain much worthwhile information, it also contains much folly, injustice, and irrationality.
I’ll be reporting back each day as a new installment appears.