Thursday, 27 October 2016

Thought 368: The Meaning of Tradition

"A tradition takes shape as a power of Dasein only where it is sustained by the creative will, and only as long as it is so sustained."

- Heidegger, Nietzsche

"Everything essential and great has only emerged when human beings had a home and were rooted in a tradition."

To a majority of British people, the word 'tradition' conjures many a stereotype pertaining to the so-called Royal Family, Sunday roasts, English breakfasts, tea and scones, wig-wearing barristers and even fox hunting.

In truth, tradition means what is passed or handed down from generation to generation, the Latin origin of the word, tradido, signifying precisely the act of delivering and handing over. 

Language is arguably the greatest example of tradition there is in so far as words, despite their many incarnations and pronunciations, always provide us with a connection to linguistic history which is usefully covered by the sciences of philology and etymology. 

Philosophy is also one for tradition, as the thoughts of older or even ancient philosophers come to bear on later generations of thinkers and the same could be said of mathematical, scientific not to say culinary discoveries.

Art too is one for tradition, as techniques and themes carry on from one generation to another, and in classical music 'old' music is constantly made afresh by contemporary interpretative talent and new technical means of recording. 

It could be argued that where tradition, i.e. the passing down of knowledge and cultural lore, is lacking, culture itself is wanting and doomed to meet a premature end at the hands of mass hypnotic entertainment and materialist fulfilment. 

For to consume means to destroy and a consumer economy is the same thing as a destructive economy while entertainment, for its part, simply means distraction from what is essential, i.e. that which is (see post What is Essential?). 

To put it succinctly, therefore, tradition is transmission