Quotations about   tradition

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The security of society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members. The great majority of people being aware of this, rank themselves naturally on the side of that splendid system that elevates them to the dignity of machines, and rage so wildly against the intrusion of the intellectual faculty into any question that concerns life, that one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
“The Critic as Artist,” Intentions (1891)
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Added on 27-May-19 | Last updated 27-May-19
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Tradition: one of those words conservative people use as a shortcut to thinking.

Warren Ellis (b. 1968) English writer
Transmetropolitan, Vol. 4: The New Scum (2000)
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 3-Apr-18
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If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Sudden Death (1983)
Added on 16-Oct-17 | Last updated 16-Oct-17
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We are justified in enforcing good morals, for they belong to all mankind; but we are not justified in enforcing good manners, for good manners always mean our own manners.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
All Things Considered, “Limericks and Counsels of Perfection” (1908)
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Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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Somehow he has internalized the ur-cultural narrative: you grow up, go to university, get a job, meet Ms. Right, get married, settle down, have kids, grow old together … it’s like some sort of checklist. Or maybe a list of epic quests you’ve got to complete while level-grinding in a game you’re not allowed to quit, with no respawns and no cheat codes.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Nightmare Stacks, ch. 9 (2016)
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Added on 29-Aug-17 | Last updated 29-Aug-17
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Truth is compar’d in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetuall progression, they sick’n into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.

[Truth is compared in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.]

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Areopagitica (1644)
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Added on 16-Aug-17 | Last updated 16-Aug-17
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The most absurd customs and the most ridiculous ceremonies are everywhere excused by an appeal to the phrase, but that’s the tradition. This is exactly what the Hottentots say when Europeans ask them why they eat grasshoppers and devour their body lice. That’s the tradition, they explain.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 3, #249 (1796)
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Added on 14-Aug-17 | Last updated 14-Aug-17
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As has been pointed out so often, it is characteristic of mankind to make as little adjustment as possible in customary ways in the face of new conditions; the process of social change is epitomized in the fact that the first Packard car body delivered to the manufacturers had a whipstock on the dashboard.

Robert Lynd (1892-1970) American sociologist [Robert Slaughton Lynd]
Middletown, ch. 29 (1929) [with Helen Lynd]
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Added on 30-Jun-17 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany: ‘Traditional values are to be debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man (1943)
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Added on 2-May-17 | Last updated 2-May-17
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The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany: ‘Traditional values are to be debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man (1943)
Added on 29-Mar-17 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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Nothing is useless. A superstition is a hamper or a basket to carry useful lessons in.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1836)
Added on 8-Aug-16 | Last updated 8-Aug-16
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If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 18-Sep-15 | Last updated 18-Sep-15
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Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August, ch. 2 (1962)
Added on 21-Jul-15 | Last updated 21-Jul-15
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The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
The Problems of Philosophy, ch. 15 “The Value of Philosophy” (1912)
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
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Whenever the locals rub blue mud in their navels, I rub blue mud in mine just as solemnly.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
Added on 2-Jun-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-15
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Most of the things we do, we do for no better reason than that our fathers have done them or our neighbors do them, and the same is true of a larger part than what we suspect of what we think.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
“The Path of the Law,” speech, Boston University School of Law on (8 Jan 1897)
Added on 20-May-15 | Last updated 20-May-15
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Religion that seeks to be no more than a time capsule is likely to be claustrophobic.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” # 8
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Added on 17-Apr-15 | Last updated 17-Apr-15
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It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
“The Path of the Law,” Speech to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (8 Jan 1897)
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Added on 10-Apr-15 | Last updated 10-Apr-15
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The superstition in which we grew up,
Though we may recognize it, does not lose
Its power over us — Not all are free
Who make mock of their chains.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Nathan the Wise (1779) [tr. Morgan (1955)]

Alt. trans.: "The superstition in which we were brought up never loses its power over us, even after we understand it." [In J. K. Hoyt & Anna L. Ward (eds.), The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1881)]
Added on 23-Jan-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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Stare decisis is usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right. … This is commonly true even where the error is a matter of serious concern, provided correction can be had by legislation. But in cases involving the Federal Constitution, where correction through legislative action is practically impossible, this court has often overruled its earlier decisions. The court bows to the lessons of experience and the force of better reasoning, recognizing that the process of trial and error, so fruitful in the physical sciences, is appropriate also in the judicial function.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) American lawyer, activist, Supreme Court Justice (1916-39)
Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co., 285 U.S. 393 (1932) [dissent]
Added on 11-Nov-14 | Last updated 11-Nov-14
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It is no good reason for a man’s religion that he was born and brought up in it; for then a Turk would have as much reason to be a Turk as a Christian to be a Christian.

William Chillingworth (1602-1644) English churchman and theologian
Religion of Protestants, ch. 2, sec. 113 (1687)
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Added on 15-Apr-14 | Last updated 15-Apr-14
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Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, ch. 1 (1852)
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Added on 14-Aug-12 | Last updated 14-Mar-16
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The slaves of custom are the sport of time.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 6, ch. 3, “Innovation” (1605)
Added on 3-Sep-09 | Last updated 30-Jul-14
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Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, ch. 5 (1876)
Added on 31-Aug-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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They say the religion of your fathers is good enough. Why should a father object to your inventing a better plow than he had?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech on Religious Intolerance, Pittsburgh Opera House (14 Oct 1879)
Added on 22-Jan-08 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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Habit with him was all the test of truth,
“It must be right: I’ve done it from my youth.”

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
The Borough, Letter 3 “The Vicar,” l. 138 (1810)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Buddha (c.563-483 BC) Indian mystic, philosopher [b. Siddharta Gautama]
The Kalama Sutta
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“The Gorky Incident” (1906)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Paper delivered in Hartford (1884)

First part (to "soul") engraved on Twain's bust in the National Hall of Fame, New York University.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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