Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Nature of Tradition

Tradition presents itself in one of two ways, depending on whether it is viewed externally or internally: 1) as the way it has always been (let "it" be what it may), or at least the way it has been since before one's initiation into the field in which the tradition in question holds sway, and 2) as a pattern introduced into a temporal process, belonging to some subjectivity (let this be an individual or a community) which would otherwise have the possibility of being introduced into the same field in a variety of different ways. In general, it is impossible for any tradition to be regarded in both of these ways at once (since to accept the possibility of having been introduced into a field in some other way is to cease to be traditional with respect to that field), and this is the point of describing one as internal and the other as external.

But note that this description is not neutral. Rather, it requires an external perspective to imagine the possibility of both. If we would like to understand the nature of tradition while remaining traditional we will have to abandon this dichotomy.