Friday, November 22, 2019

Traditions Encourage Openness, Flexibility, and Adaptability

Michael Oakeshott, in his essay, “The Tower of Babel,” shows that there are fundamentally two idealized versions of moral orders: a moral order that is based on established traditions or customs and one that is doctrinal, self-conscious and critical. He places traditions or customs between the extremes of ‘rigidity’ and ‘instability’. He notes that traditions or customs encourage openness and flexibility, and enable a society to be adaptable to the “nuance of the situation’. Here’s an excerpt from his essay:

"Custom is always adaptable and susceptible to the nuance of the situation.This may appear a paradoxical assertion; custom, we have been taught, is blind. It is, however, an insidious piece of misobservation; custom is not blind, it is only ‘blind as a bat’. And anyone who has studied a tradition of customary behaviour (or tradition of any sort) knows that both rigidity and instability are foreign to its character. And secondly, this form of the moral life is capable of change as well as of local variation. Indeed, no traditional way of behaviour, no traditional skill, ever remained fixed; its history is one of continuous change. It is true that the change it admits is neither great nor sudden; but then, revolutionary change is usually the product of the eventual overthrow of an aversion from change, and is characterisictcp of something that has few internal resources of change."

No comments: