How do we judge traditions?

The brilliance of this essay is magnificent.

Two excerpts:

“Here are three criteria which make sense to me when judging a tradition: Is it beautiful or productive of beauty? Does it help us love — love one another when we don’t want to, or love a rightful authority? Does it mitigate, honor, or make sublime the suffering and constraint inherent in our natures?”


“We need tradition because so many of our authorities are abstractions, and no one really loves or follows an abstraction. Traditions, in which specific actions, gestures, symbols, and images accrete around an abstraction like “England,” or “Thanksgiving,” or “philosophy,” or “the black community,” give that abstraction a pointillist face and transform it into something almost like a beloved or hero. The more of these traditions we strip away, the more abstract and faceless the authority becomes, and the harder it is for us even to imagine how we might follow it.”



Filed under Conservatism

2 responses to “How do we judge traditions?

  1. April


    Yes, I particularly liked that second portion as well – the notion of a “pointillist face” illuminates her idea so well.

  2. NDH

    In fact, this entire Cato Unbound series on Tradition in the Modern World is extremely valuable. Russell Arben Fox’s lead essay and James Polous’s essay are remarkable.

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