A systematic theory of tradition
Journal of the Philosophy of History
Brill Academic Publishers
1 - 28
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We still lack a systematic or complete theory of tradition. By referring to the works of many major figures of the last century - Arendt, Boyer, Eisenstadt, Eliot, Gadamer, Goody, Hobsbawm, Kermode, Leavis, MacIntyre, Oakeshott, Pieper, Pocock, Popper, Prickett, Shils and others - I show that a theory of tradition must include insights taken not only from the study of sociology and anthropology, but also from the study of literature and religion (and, it goes without saying here, the study of philosophy and history). The proliferation of separate academic subjects does not make it any less necessary for us to attempt to say in general what we are talking about when we talk about tradition. In this article I distinguish three elements which are found in traditions. I call these continuity, canon, and core. The argument is that traditions can be distinguished in terms of whether there is a core in addition to canon and continuity, a canon in addition to continuity, or only mere continuity. Together these form a theory of tradition which enables us to see what is necessary to all traditions and also what it is which distinguishes different types of tradition from each other. © 2016 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.