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The positives of tradition?

  1. Nov 17, 2003 #1
    Is tradition good? Does it serve a positive, useful purpose? Has it held us back more than it helped us? Is tradition something valuable in and of itself? Is it useful for other ends? Are you tired of this barrage of questions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2003 #2
    In purely evolutionary terms, yes, it's good and serves a useful purpose. Tradition is one of the most helpful memes, since it is one of the few memes that are instrumental, not in the propogation, but in the continued existence of so many other memes.

    Probably in some cases, but, for the most part, I think it has helped more than hurt.

    Yes, but it may be tradition that causes me to think so. Tradition is one of the strongest memes of the "nurture" part of our own personal evolution, as individuals. It cements us into a belief system, it is what allows us to trust in science and other philosophies, and it has a very special survival mechanism: It makes us think it's a good thing.

    Not at all. Indeed, I constantly look forward to the next "Dan post", since they almost always force me to think about things from new angles.
  4. Nov 18, 2003 #3


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    Metaphor alert!

    Consider riding a bicycle. Part of your stability comes from your steering and pedaling. But part of it also comes from your former steering and pedaling; from your built up momentum.

    I think tradition in society is like that. Some of it is necessary so that society doesn't just become random "fais ce que vouldras". But too much can cause problems, just as if you don't correct your bike's momentum you can run into a tree.
  5. Nov 18, 2003 #4
    Very good analogy, selfAdjoint. However, what does it mean when one moves, so as to avoid running into a tree? I hope I'm not taking the metaphor too far here, but it seems that this could be one of the instances that I referred to - agreeing with Dan - wherein tradition can "hold society back" sometime, rather than "helping it forward".
  6. Nov 18, 2003 #5
    Oh, and, one more thing: Just as relying too much on previous momentum brings a bike to an eventual stand-still (since one is no longer pedaling), so too much reliance on old tradition can make for the collapse of a society.
  7. Nov 18, 2003 #6
    Tradition is part of the glue that holds a society together. Like everything else if carried too far or held too strictly it becomes a hinderence; but, if taken in moderation it is a good thing.
  8. Nov 18, 2003 #7
    What about reverence for tradition? Do we need to have reverence for tradition in order to gain its benefits? Would eliminating the reverence prevent some of the negative effects of tradition?
  9. Nov 18, 2003 #8


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    I think we should be very careful in choosing what we revere, because reverence shuts down the critical facility. And the world has far too few critical thinkers to lose any, while passive reverers are a dime a dozen.
  10. Nov 18, 2003 #9
    Hank Williams, Jr. followed his "Family Tradition" and made millions b/c of it.

  11. Nov 18, 2003 #10
    Tradition helps us to sustain that which is good in our society. To retain the knowledge, values, and belief systems which brought us to this point. We just have to build upon that knowledge and not level off.

    Just like the bike metaphor, we have to continue to improve upon tradition. It's our momentum that carries us forward, but it's our pushing that keeps us upright. Or maybe I'm just repeating what ws just said, so I guess I agree:smile:
  12. Nov 18, 2003 #11


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    Let me just give the most current example of turning lest you run into a tree. Gay marriage. Courts in several states (including the top court in Massachusetts today) have said equal justice is a mockery if the state won't marry people who want to get married regardless of sex. Legislatures have responded in various ways from furious denial to acquiescence and compromise.

    Tradition here is (IMHO) dangerous motion in the wrong direction. Steering into the modern world is what is required.
  13. Nov 18, 2003 #12
    Well a bike is a good one i tell ya. Because without tradition it is definitly possible and should be that way but things are much easier when riding a bike. I try my best to walk, takes a bit longer then a bike but it's more dependable and can be used by those unfortunate enough to purchase a bike.
    in other words: tradition helps but is not nessesary
  14. Nov 20, 2003 #13
    That, again, is probably a matter of degree. Reverence helps in the propogation and replication of useful traditions, but it can be taken too far.
  15. Nov 28, 2003 #14
    Tradition - as most of you have said - can be both a help and a hinderance. I have my own limited analogy.

    I think it's danger lies in simply becoming something we just do, like eat KFC on tuesday. When the reason is forgotten then it becomes dangerous because things are added to the tradition that were never meant to be, like the need for gravy with your order.

    It is beneficial when we remember why we do it - the tradition becomes part of a societies memory, or the means a groups remembers that on tuesday, chicken is only $2.
  16. Nov 30, 2003 #15
    Tradition is like the root system of a tree. We have to have it, otherwise there would be no means by which to prop society up.

    However, there's no reason why we can't start a new tradition if, for some reason we develop a hankering for say, "gravy." :wink:
  17. Nov 30, 2003 #16
    True - tradiditions can grow to include other things - like gravy.

    The danger is when the reason for the tradition is forgotten and the gravy become more important than the chicken.

    (not to mention that gravy and fries are the devil's food anyway.)
  18. Dec 3, 2003 #17
    In tradition, we have to be careful of allowing the ends to become more important than the means, the action more than the ideal.

    I apologize for going back to such an early post, but with the bicycle, we stop pedaling because we get tired, see a bus heading for us, or we get home. In short: we get bored of it. But we have to let tradition lives; it is the meme that binds societies together.
  19. Dec 3, 2003 #18
    In tradition, we have to be careful of allowing the ends to become more important than the means, the action more than the ideal.

    In one sentance you've said what I've been trying to say.
  20. Dec 12, 2003 #19
    Tradition has a way of bridging generations and continuing family histories. In a way, it has a way of making a mortal person perpetual.

    When I was a young child, we gathered every year at my Great-Aunt Suzie's house on Christmas Eve. My mother's family is from Mexico and so we would have tamales, a piñata, and a good old fashioned American Santa Claus. (We lived in the Chicago area).

    Those days are long gone but I can still sing to you the song "Cielito Lindo," (though I don't understand the words), and I still make tamales every Christmas. I'd have a piñata too if I had a larger family and a bigger basement. (Maybe when I have grandchildren of my own, I'll do just that).

    The memories of Christmas Eve at my Aunt Suzie's will never leave me, but it's the tradition of the tamales that I'll carry on to the next generation (my daughter) and she can carry it on to hers, if she wishes to make it a family tradition to continue.

    Last edited: Dec 12, 2003
  21. Dec 12, 2003 #20
    What's your address? Can I come over? That sounds so much better than turkey!

    That is a beautiful post that highlights something I think we have not mentioned so far here - the good feelings that traditions carry with them.

    I grew up watching "A Christmas Carol" every Christmas. I still need to see that story at least once every season. This year I was fortunate enough to go to a live performance of the play. It was amazing and I felt like a kid while it was on. I love that story!

    I walked into the theatre on a normal day - I walked out feeling like Christmas was near. That’s the power of tradition.
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