As my friends and relatives (as well as regular readers of this blog) have probably discerned, one of my pet peeves is the logical fallacy known as “Appeal to tradition” (a.k.a argumentum ad antiquitatem). This is the ridiculous assertion that a policy or idea is correct (and therefore should be sustained) because it has “always been done this way” or some other ridiculous derivative of this argument. Recently this line of reasoning has been especially favoured by those who oppose changes in social mores (e.g. the debate over legalization of same sex marriage), however, it is simply a non sequitur. Just as a belief system’s veracity has nothing to do with its “usefulness” or “goodness”, the legitimacy of a policy or idea has nothing to do with its history. Circumstances change: a certain way of thinking or a certain idea simply may no longer be applicable in a new context. We can argue whether a policy or idea has any value, is feasible, or is simply right, but, its historical significance is irrelevant.

Anyway, I was bored earlier, somehow found myself searching for the keyword “tradition” on a couple of quotations websites, and found some very poetic and novel arguments that I thought I should share. So, here goes…

 Quotes from Quotations page:

  • “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer” – W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965)
  • “A love of tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril: but the new view must come, the world must roll forward.” – Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), speech in the House of Commons, November 29. 1944
  • “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we made today.” – Henry Ford (1863-1947) Interview in Chicago Tribune, May 25, 1916
  • “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 (187-1936), Orthodoxy

Quotes from Brainyquote:

  • “As soon as tradition has come to be recognized as tradition, it is dead.” – Allan Bloom
  • Darwin’s idea of natural selection makes people uncomfortable because it reverses the direction of tradition.” – Daniel Dennett
  • “Everywhere, authority and tradition have to justify themselves in the face of questions.” – Gustav Heinemann
  • “Free yourself from the rigid conduct of tradition and open yourself to the new forms of probability.” – Hans Bender
  • “I’m content to stand on tradition. I’m even more content to wipe my feet on it.” – Aaron Alliston
  • “Leadership is particularly necessary to ensure ready acceptance of the unfamiliar and that which is contrary to tradition.” – Cyril Falls
  • “Preserving tradition has become a nice hobby, like stamp collecting.” – Mason Cooley
  • “The assumption must be that those who see value only in tradition, or versions of it, deny man’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.” – Stephen Bayley
  • “Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • “Tradition demands that we not speak poorly of the dead.” – Daniel Barenbolm
  • “Tradition does not mean that the living are dead, it means that the dead are living.” – Harold MacMillan
  • “Tradition is the illusion of permanence.” – Woody Allen
  • “You must be in tune with the times and prepared to break with tradition.” – James Agee