Appeal to tradition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Appeal to tradition (also known as argumentum ad antiquitatem,[1] appeal to antiquity, or appeal to common practice) is an argument in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis that it is correlated with some 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 at present.
In reality, the circumstances may have changed; this assumption may also therefore have become untrue.

An appeal to tradition is only a fallacious argument in itself if the argument is not developed further, for example by pointing out that the widespread acceptance of the practice means that there would be significant implications/disruption/cost involved in abandoning the tradition. For example, arguing that the QWERTY keyboard layout should be retained "because it is traditional" would be fallacious unless the further argument is made that, being traditional, QWERTY is familiar to most current keyboard users who would need retraining if any change were made. (The further development may introduce other fallacies.)

The opposite of an appeal to tradition is an appeal to novelty, claiming something is good because it is new.

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.