Appeal to tradition

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Appeal to tradition (also known as argumentum ad antiquitatem or argumentum ad antiquitam,[1] appeal to antiquity, or appeal to common practice) is an argument in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis of correlation with past or present tradition. The appeal takes the form of "this is right because we've always done it this way."[2]

An appeal to tradition essentially makes two assumptions that are not necessarily true:

  • The old way of thinking was proven correct when introduced, i.e. since the old way of thinking was prevalent, it was necessarily correct.
In reality, this may be false—the tradition might be entirely based on incorrect grounds.
  • The past justifications for the tradition are still valid.
In reality, the circumstances may have changed; this assumption may also therefore have become untrue.

An appeal to tradition is only fallacious in itself if the argument is not developed further, such as pointing out that the widespread acceptance of a practice or dependency on it means that abandoning it would incur significant implications/disruption/cost. For example, arguing that the QWERTY keyboard layout should be retained "because it is traditional" would be fallacious without the argument that most keyboard users would need retraining to adapt to changes. The further development may introduce other fallacies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Logical Fallacies and the Art of Debate". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  2. ^ Trufant, William (1917). Argumentation and Debating. Houghton Mifflin company.