The Appeal to Tradition fallacy occurs when someone argues that a particular action or viewpoint is correct or superior solely because it has been practiced or accepted for a long time. This fallacy assumes that “old” or “traditional” automatically means “better” or “correct,” which is not necessarily the case. While traditions can offer valuable lessons and cultural continuity, the fact that something has been done a certain way for years does not automatically make it the best or only way to do something.
Imagine a business meeting where employees are discussing how to improve the efficiency of a particular workflow. Alice suggests that they should adopt a new software tool designed for this kind of work. Bob responds, “We’ve been doing it this way for 20 years, and there’s no reason to change now.”
In this scenario, Bob is committing the Appeal to Tradition fallacy. His argument doesn’t address the merits of the new software tool or consider that improvements are possible; it simply leans on the tradition of how things have been done. Bob assumes that because a process has been in place for a long time, it must be the best method, overlooking the possibility that new tools or methods could offer significant improvements.
The Appeal to Tradition fallacy can impede progress and prevent beneficial changes. Just because a practice is traditional does not mean it’s the most effective, ethical, or appropriate choice in every situation. It’s important to assess ideas and practices based on their merits, rather than solely on their longevity or tradition.