Brett Williams's Reviews > Tradition: Concept and Claim

Tradition by Josef Pieper
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Tradition is the topic here: what it is, is not, how to keep it, how to lose it. Another of the many critics of post Enlightenment social / spiritual modernity, Pieper writes, “A future without a past is null and void [i.e. our perpetual present]. And hope without a foundation is just another name for despair.” For Pieper the only traditions that can survive are those begun by something men cannot assail – God. Mere humans, like America’s Founders, aren’t distant enough, mysterious enough, inscrutable enough to have lasting power, and yet 242 years on, their system of governance stands up to a want-to-be dictator – so far.

Pieper does understand something the likes of Richard Dawkins don’t: “When what has been believed becomes verified and critically established,” Pieper writes, “at the same moment it loses its character as tradition.” That is, traditions – at least religious traditions that Pieper reveals are central to him – must not make sense in the way science makes sense of nature. The inscrutable nature of myth, art, religion are what give them power because they make sense to human nature, odd as it and they can be.

While this reader agrees with Pieper that a civilization without a tradition becomes rudderless, as America is a shining example, Pieper’s appeal to and requirement of a divine source will suite those who don’t need convincing. The rest of us, and modernity itself, has a much harder nut to crack than a leap of faith: a kind of convincing that has both power over that mystic-loving human nature, and rational weight. In the end, I found Pieper at times tedious and not convincing, though he does offer some food for thought.
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Reading Progress

January 12, 2018 – Started Reading
January 12, 2018 – Shelved
February 14, 2018 – Finished Reading

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