Appeal To Tradition—also called "Appeal to Antiquity", or "We've Always Done It This Way,"—is the polar opposite of Appeal to Novelty, where the older position is right. See also They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, Nostalgia Filter, Older Is Better, Ludd Was Right, Good Old Ways, and New Media Are Evil. This tends to be rolled out regarding consumer products and morality; in the former case, they don't make 'em like they used to, and in the latter, it was better in the good ol' days. Old ways do tend to be workable, or they don't become old ways in the first place; what makes this a fallacy is the unstated assumption that no better way is possible. See also Culture Justifies Anything. Quite similar to Appeal to Nature.
One thing that looks like this fallacy but is not: If a novelty is logically inconsistent with what the reformer is ostensibly setting out to do. If a would-be religious reformer attempts to change doctrines on which the entire religion rests, then his opponents are right to point out that he does not seek reform, but rather the complete destruction of that religion.
- A commercial for the allergy medicine Claritin bragged that "while other brands have recently changed their formulas, Claritin chose not to change", leaving out that, when many companies change formulas, it's usually for a pretty good reason (e.g. dangerous ingredients). Well, when it's not just to keep their patents going, anyway. It's not as if multinationals spend millions to overhaul their production protocols and practices for fun.
- Blue Bell claims to "taste just like the good old days." Its commercials also include a lot of old timey things.
- Anatolia Story: This is one argument brought up when the Hittite Senate is debating over whether to allow Yuri (a commoner) to marry Kail Mursili (the emperor), since it is traditional that royalty only married nobility or other royalty. The trope is then defied by several other members of the Senate replying that tradition is not an absolute authority, and it is wise to either ignore or alter tradition when it is necessary. The debate soon turns to the practical pros and cons of having Yuri marry Kail.
- One 1970's issue of MAD managed to do this in "A Mad City/Suburban Street Scene We'd Like to See": The wholesome utopian city featured a number of Honest John's Dealership businesses in the form of honest appliance repair at low prices, an insurance company that sold policies with no fine print, a fur dealership that only sold synthetic furs, efficient garbage and mail service, a pharmacy that only filled prescriptions, honest cops who don't take bribes, a taxpayer-funded sports stadium that only charged $1 general admission, no pollution, and the draft board and welfare offices were closed (due to everyone being happily employed). The suburban town had a well-staffed doctor's office with no waiting, banks with low-interest lending rates, a wholesome hamburger restaurant supplied with pure, top-grade beef, the smoke shop is closed down, and an integrated school system. This may have been a tongue-in-cheek parody since real-life city and suburban conditions at the time were far from ideal, and a number of the businesses and city services (particularly New York City) were far from perfect, and school integration was a touchy issue at the time, especially in The Deep South.
- In "The Lottery", this is how the townsfolk justify the eponymous event. They're appalled that nearby towns have given up the grand old tradition of stoning a randomly selected person to death, because it's what they've always done.
- Used to justify pretty much everything the Unseen University does.
- In The Science of Discworld, when Ponder Stibbons has a radical new idea, he has to claim he got it from a book a few hundred years old for the faculty to take him seriously.
- There's a similar situation in Pyramids; the pharaoh's time is spent carrying out rituals, and the whole country is being held in a sort of stasis because the pyramids are recycling the same bit of time over and over.
- In the Gormenghast books, so many traditions have grown up around the castle and its ruler that the Earl must spend virtually his entire life carrying out one pointless ritual after another, leaving only an occasional hour before bed in which to do something because he wants to. Many of the castle's servants are born into their professions, and trapped in a similar bind. The court even includes a "Master of Ritual", a sort of Grand Vizier whose entire job is to keep track of all these traditions.
- Gunther attempts to do this with his sister in Unique to dissuade her from dating a non-werewolf. Not only is Emma not having any of it, but their father and pack leader is equally opposed to traditions that largely consist of behaving badly and then claiming it's just acting like wolves, when real wolves would never stoop to such behavior.
- In Rivers of London DCI Nightingale's defence of The Masquerade pretty much comes down to we've always done it this way. To say Peter is not impressed would be an understatement.
- In Victoria, this is the main argument of the Retroculture advocates. Since Western Civilization worked very well for three thousand years, and society has gone down the drain in only a few decades after secularism and political correctness got started, the solution to all problems is obviously to return to the tried and true values of the 19th century.
- Oathbringer (third book of The Stormlight Archive): One of the causes for friction between Dalinar and the ardents is that he wants answers about the nature of the world and religion, while the ardents are insistent that religion is right because it is right and because it has been done this way for centuries. Dalinar tells a story about how he was taught to tie his takama (a shirt for sword duels) three times instead of two, and how his master refused to allow him to do it any other way, because that's how his master taught him. Dalinar found his master's master, and he said the same thing. Dalinar found that man's master, who was very short, and he just said that he tied it three times to keep himself from tripping over the end.
Dalinar: I love tradition. I've fought for tradition. I make my men follow the codes. I uphold Vorin virtues. But merely being tradition does not make something worthy, Kadash. We can't just assume that because something is old it is right.
- Game of Thrones: This is Hizdahr's main explanation for the brutality of the fighting pits.
- Rome: Lucius Vorenus (a commoner) brings this up when he's a guest at the Julii household and Atia (an aristocrat) asks him what he thinks of the institutional problems of the Roman Republic. He skirts the issue of reform with an appeal to the longevity of the republic.
- The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Fortunate Son" has our heroes dealing with a cargo freighter whose First Officer Matthew Ryan firmly holds onto this philosophy. For example, he scoffs at the warp 5 engine on Enterprise, saying that a slow warp 1.8 is just fine for them — even though, as former cargo boomer Travis Mayweather points out, a faster engine will let them get their cargo where it's going in far less time, pleasing their customers and letting them perform more runs. It would also make it easier to escape from dangers like the Nausicaan Space Pirates who keep harassing them. Captain Keane, on the other hand, isn't too thrilled about the inevitable changes in space travel but grudgingly decides to adapt.
- Weird Al's song "Weasel Stomping Day" is about a Fictional Holiday where people spread mayonnaise on their lawns, then put on viking helmets and hiking boots in order to crush weasels to death. Complete with tongue-in-cheek lyrics such as "It's tradition, that makes it okay" in order to mock the idea that an abhorrent act is acceptable if it is "traditional."
- Hinted at in the 1969 Doors song "The Soft Parade", which, given the constant religious/mythological imagery in the lyrics, is probably meant to be a critique of religious traditions: "All our lives we sweat and save / Building for a shallow grave / Must be something else we say / Somehow to defend this place / Ev'rything must be this way."
- Deconstructed in Dragon Age, where several ancient cultures and empires are on the verge of crumbling, but refuse to change their ways because "tradition."
- The last two remaining dwarven kingdoms refuse to leave the underground despite being stuck in a Forever War with the Darkspawn, nor loosen their rigid and oppressive caste system that contributes to their declinenote ), just because "this is the way it's always been."
- Tevinter similarly refuses to loosen its restrictive caste and slavery system, even though doing so would prevent them from crumbling as they are.
- Most elves refuse to give up trying to reclaim or keep alive their lost ancient culture after being conquered and enslaved by humans twice, though the Dalish take it to greater extremes.
- The Grey Wardens can also refuse to research any new ways to fight darkspawn and end Blights, strictly adhering to the way the first Grey Wardens did it in the First Blight because... that's the way the first Grey Wardens did it in the very First Blight. Whether this happens is almost entirely up to the player's choices. As the series goes on more and more alternatives to the Warden's way of doing things have been discovered prolonging Wardens' lives despite the taint, curing the Taint, stopping Blights without destroying the soul of an Old God in the process, etc but the Wardens may adamantly refuse to break tradition if the player's actions lead that way.
- Dragon Age: Origins: During the City Elf Origin, if you ask your father why you have to enter an Arranged Marriage, he responds, "Tradition, child!"
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: After a huge magical explosion kills off all the major religious leaders of the world and creates a giant demon-raining hole in the sky, the Chantry refuses to deal with said demon-raining hole in the sky first, arguing that it is more important to follow tradition by electing a new Divine first (which could take months) and then following her orders on the subject. The game essentially opens with the Player Character and a handful of declared heretics starting their own religious organization (the Inquisition) to deal with the new problem since the Chantry's old traditional way (lots of political grand-standing and bureaucratic procedure) would be too slow and address the world-shattering crisis too late.
- Deconstructed in Final Fantasy X, as the people of Spira rely solely on the tradition of the Grand Summoner and their pilgrimages in order to defeat Sin and bring about The Calm (the period in which the populace can live without fear of their villages being randomly destroyed by an evil whale-thingy). However, this only lasts for a few years at most, (the most recent Calm having lasted about a decade) so Sin would return again, and perpetuate the 'spiral of death' that the land is caught in. In addition, the machina-using Al Bhed, the only ones who challenge the ritual because of what happens to the summoner in the process, are ostracized by the rest of society, as they believe that Sin was born because of the use of machines. And it turns out it was actually the traditional Summoner's journey that was allowing Sin to come back, among other factors.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Mojave branch of the Brotherhood Of Steel is on the verge of extinction because the leader refuses to break their long-standing tradition of isolationism, even though they havent been in contact with the main branch back in California for decades, and to keep enforcing it at this point is suicidal. This is mixed with Honor Before Reason as the last he heard, the Brotherhood was at war with the NCR, which is also the biggest faction in the Mojave. There's also a purist faction thats even more hardline than he is, who wants to return to open hostility with other groups, even though they'd get overrun by sheer numbers. Elder McNamara is all too aware of this and he carries the burden with a stoic sadness.
- In Goblins, this is Young-and-Beautiful's reason for not letting the goblin tribe use their magic items.
Young-and-Beautiful: For countless generations we have done things a certain way. We can't do everything differently now because it... "makes sense".
- In Nodwick, Liam Geakes tries to impose a new magic system on the magical community. It's not a good system. It's full of bugs and Weaksauce Weaknesses. Naturally, they're not happy.
- In Roommates the answer the Erlkönig (Elf King) gives his son's roommate:
Erik: Excuse me, is there some kind of mystical significance to why a Scandinavian/Germanic death avatar has just appeared in the living room and bargained favors with my 1980's children's fantasy film villain of a flatmate? Because as far as I know, The Wild Hunt never involved goblins, and I really don't think I'll like where this is going.The Erlkönig: It is tradition.
- Illustrated in The Simpsons episode "Whacking Day", where snakes are herded to the town square and beaten to death with clubs. Lisa and Barry White are the only characters who are initially disgusted with the idea.
- Ultimately subverted, though, because it turns out (in-universe) that Whacking Day isn't even an ancient tradition, but a fictional holiday dreamed up as an excuse to commit hate crimes against the Irish.
- Family Guy: One episode parodies the classic Pepperidge Farm commercial that relies on this trope to sell cookies. The commercial starts out the usual way, with the old man talking about all the old small-town traditions, then goes off on a tangent about the time the viewer killed someone and hid the body, and Pepperidge Farm remembers that too, but will keep quiet about it as long as you buy their cookies.
- In the episode of Hey Arnold! where Harold steals a ham, the rabbi is upset that Harold committed a theft, yes, but appears more concerned that he took unkosher food.
"We don't eat ham! We haven't eaten ham for over 5000 years, there's no need to start now!"
- The Critic:
- One episode had Jay Sherman's stepsister being pressured by her mother into attending a debutante ball, insisting that she herself had come out as a debutante as a girl and it was important for the daughter to carry on the tradition. (Of course, an Alternate Character Interpretation is that the mother hated being a debutante, too, but can't stand the idea of her daughter having a better adolescence than she did, and so is determined to make her suffer.)
- This is a recurring theme for Jay's parents (mostly his mother, his father is too much of a Cloudcuckoolander to care either way), being part of classic U.S aristocracy.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has had a few:
- "Winter Wrap Up" has the ponies physically clearing out winter, using plows to remove snow, bells to awaken hibernating birds, etc. Spike even asks why they don't just use magic and Twilight points out that, even though that would be much easier and faster, since Ponyville was founded by earth ponies it's tradition to do it manually instead. Later on Twilight does cheat with magic and gets thoroughly chewed out by Applejack for it.
- "Over A Barrel" has this for the buffalo's entire motivation: They're upset that settler ponies built an orchard over their traditional stampeding grounds.
- "Newbie Dash" shows that all new Wonderbolts go through a Chilly Reception and Embarrassing Nickname process. The nicknames become their Call Signs.
- "The Cart Before the Ponies" has Applejack pulling this argument to an absurd degree on Apple Bloom when she wants to build the fastest cart and not the most traditional one. She doesn't really give a reason for wanting a traditional cart aside from, well, that's what the Apples have always done.
- South Park:
- This was the crux of Uncle Jimbo's argument against changing the town flag, despite the fact that the flag was extremely racist, even by the standards of pre-Civil War America (the flag consists of four white figures lynching a black one).
- Parodied in "Tooth Decay" with the Canadian Royal Wedding ceremony which is interrupted by the princess being kidnapped by an unseen monster, with the commentators biggest complaint that "this isn't traditional at all". The ceremony itself consists of an increasingly surreal and bizarre series of customs which the commentator gushes over about how traditional it all is.
- An episode of Yin Yang Yo! had Indestructo-Bob beat up the King of Redneckistan, and due to tradition he's now king. When Jobeaux and Yin show up to face him, Jobeaux is forbidden from using Woo Foo or getting help from Yin, since it's against tradition. Finally, Jobeaux just decides to ignore tradition, saying that if if it puts someone like Bob in charge, it's not worth following.
- Often used in religious and political debates, especially about social issues. And we'll leave it at that.
1. "Das haben wir immer schon so gemacht." ("We've always done it this way")2. "Das geht nicht."/"Das haben wir noch nie so gemacht." ("Them's the Rules.")3. "Da könnte ja jeder kommen." ("Then anyone could ask for the same.")
- A German pamphletist sympathizing with the French Revolution mocked appeals to traditions saying: "our forefathers wet their pants, therefore we too have to wet our pants."
- Which is interesting because Germany often mocks its own stickling to tradition with the Three Laws:
- The British general Sir Charles Napier, during his deployment in India in the 1840s, attended the funeral pyre of a local dignitary, when he, to his horror, saw the wife of the deceased being led onto the pyre. Napier ordered his men to intervene and hang the offenders. When an outraged local priest asked by what right he had killed men for following their people's tradition of burning widows alongside their dead husbands, Napier answered: "My people have a tradition of hanging men who attempt to murder women".
- A bit of dry observational humor at Texas A&M University (a school often obsessed with tradition to the point of self-parody) is that the college (or more specifically, the Corps of Cadets) has been going down the drain since 1876.note
- Claiming paper books are better than ebooks because they're older is this trope. Preferring the feel of real paper, freedom from needing electricity, preferring to study away from the many distractions offered by most ebook readers, frequently jotting notes in the margin, and enjoying buying a physical object are personal behaviors and preferences.
- This is one of the main reasons why Formula One and Indy Car haven't added much safer closed cockpits on their cars, along with the idea that closed cockpits would be more dangerous in certain situations (such as a car on its roof or on fire). The argument goes that we've always been able to see what the driver is doing while they're driving, and closing the cockpits would remove that and, with it, the spirit of open-wheel racing. However, a pair of deaths from head injuries sustained in open cockpit race cars in 2015 seems to be turning the tide in this regard.
- Similar to paper books, vinyl records have been getting this from music fans, claiming that the larger artwork, analog sound, and the linear sequencing are objectively better than CDs or later digital downloads and streaming music.