Josef Pieper’s Tradition: Concept and Claim
analyzes tradition as an idea and as a living reality in the lives and languages of ordinary people. In the modern world of constant, unrelenting change, tradition, says Pieper, is that which must be preserved unchanged. Drawing on thinkers from Plato to Pascal, Pieper describes the key elements and figures in the act of tradition and what is distinctive about it.
Pieper argues that the handing down of tradition is not the same as discussing or teaching, despite its similarities to those activities. It means accepting something as true and valid with the intent of handing it down again, unmixed with alien intrusions and yet kept alive for each new generation via imaginative reformulations. In the beginning, there is sacred tradition, founded on a revelation of God to man, yet secular tradition is important too. Tradition offers liberation from the prison of the present. “Understanding what tradition really means makes one free and independent in the face of conservatisms,” notes Pieper. At the same time, it links us to the past and is essential for a meaningful future.
“This is a profound reflection on contemporary understandings and misunderstandings of what tradition is. Pieper argues powerfully that the modern scientific situation, and the zeal for the new, do not and cannot supersede the human need of tradition if we are to orient ourselves in the world and find meaning. Pieper’s quest for the reconciliation of reason/science with tradition/revelation suggests Thomas Aquinas speaking in the language and context of our time.” – Timothy Fuller, Lloyd E. Worner Distinguished Service Professor, Colorado College
“Josef Pieper, in this lucid translation, shows that tradition is not the same as ‘traditionalism’; nor is it the mindless repetition of a past no longer understood. Rather, tradition is the handing down and the reception, generation after generation, of unchanging truths that originate vin a primal revelation. Pieper shows in a brilliant, paradigm-shifting way, how philosophy, theology, science, and the arts interact with tradition, and how a sense of unchanging sacred tradition is necessary for human community.” – Gene Edward Veith, Patrick Henry College