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Whose Tradition? Which Nostalgia?

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

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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.

This Week [2/21-2/27]

2/22 Monday – Latin Reading Practice (10:00-10:30am ET).  A quick half hour for anyone interested in improving their ability to read and understand the Latin Language.

2/23 Tuesday – Latin Reading Practice (1:30-2:00pm ET).  A quick half hour for anyone interested in improving their ability to read and understand the Latin Language.

2/23 – Tuesday – Philosophical Conversation Hour (5:30-7:00pm ET). Join us for conversation, lively debates, and get to know the members of the Lyceum!  Open to the public: use the “Send Us a Message” form here (write “Open Chat” in the message box) and we’ll see you on Teams!

2/25 Thursday – Latin Reading Practice (10:00-10:30am ET).  A quick half hour for anyone interested in improving their ability to read and understand the Latin Language.

2/26 Friday – Open Chat (9:30-10:15am ET). Our regular Friday-morning open chat, allowing conversation between those in the West and those in the East–part of the truly international nature of the Lyceum Institute.  A good way to bring the thinking of one week to a close and launch into the next.

2/27 Saturday – Latin Class(10-11am ET).  Continuing to deepen our understanding and familiarity with the Latin language thanks to tough practice and good tutelage.

2/27 Saturday – Seminar Discussion Sessions.  The next-to-last week of the Winter seminars.  Metaphysics: The Discovery of Ens inquantum Ens brings its focus to the centrality of substance as that through which being is manifest in all its derivative, analogically predicated forms.  Ethics: The Good Life continues its inquiry into the concept of leisure as illuminated by Josef Pieper.

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