Our next Philosophical Happy Hour continues our discussion of modernity. We turn to the topics of tradition and nostalgia, with a focus on the potential role of nostalgia in the increasing number of “return to tradition” and “create a new tradition” movements arising within contemporary societies.
Though “modernity” is a difficult term to define, it is uncontroversial to claim that modernity has a “tradition” of being in tension with tradition. As many of us have encountered, any reference to the topic of tradition (or traditions) is likely to spark some degree of controversy. For instance:
- Some think tradition to be a necessary good which advances the wellbeing of both individuals and society; others think it to be a loathsome vice which is used to suppress individual freedom(s); others yet accept tradition more neutrally as a practical necessity used to prevent cultural decay and disarray.
- Some think tradition to be an affirmation of truth, while others think it a mere cultural construct.
- Among those who think tradition to be a good (or at least an acceptable necessity), there remain disagreements about which tradition(s) to follow. Moreover, ought we accept readily our tradition(s) as presented, or ought we introduce reforms, whether minor or extreme?
- Some are keen to distinguish an appreciation of existing tradition(s) from the adopted ideology of “traditionalism.” Moreover: some think traditionalism to be a needed mindset to correct the errors of our age, while others think it to be a reductive, seductive means of control.
- Some may laud the tradition(s) of one or more disciplines—theology, politics, education, the fine arts, to name a few—yet demand progress in others, or vice versa.
Regardless of our views of tradition, it is also uncontroversial to note that ours is increasingly an “age of nostalgia.” We commonly encounter appeals to nostalgia not only in advertising and the arts, but also in political and religious messaging, especially with the goal of rekindling a sense of the wholesome, “good old days.” So too, this appeal to nostalgia is common in defenses for tradition(s), especially traditionalist movements. As with tradition, we may ask some questions about nostalgia:
- What is nostalgia? Is it a mere emotion, or perhaps more of a mindset?
- How do we distinguish when nostalgia is a helpful rather than harmful inspiration?
- Is there a particularly “modern” notion of nostalgia, in contrast to that of our predecessors?
- Is nostalgia a legitimate justification for a return to tradition? Conversely, is a lack of nostalgia a legitimate cause to reject tradition?
Join us this evening (9/20/2023, 5:45-7:15 pm ET) as we explore these questions and themes, with particular reference to the thought of Yves Congar, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Jaroslav Pelikan, and Josef Pieper.
Philosophical Happy Hour
Come join us for drinks (adult or otherwise) and a meaningful conversation. Open to the public! Held every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET.