Journal of Libertarian Studies

Hayek on Tradition

The Journal of Libertarian Studies

taken for granted. And if the specific content of that morality, especially where it touches on matters of sexuality, is widely regarded with contempt, the meta-ethical notion that one ought to respect a moral code precisely because it is traditional gets even worse treatment: It is held to be beneath contempt. Modern educated people take it to be a sign of their modernity and education that they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any institution or code of behavior, however widespread, ancient, and venerable, which has not been rationally justified. Traditional morality stands doubly damned in their eyes: It is not rationally justifiable, and its adherents fail even to attempt to justify it so. The traditional moralist, they take it, is a slave not merely to the “conventional wisdom” but to the conventional wisdom of people long dead. He is in the grip of irrationality, superstition, and ignorance; worst of all, he is out of date.

This attitude toward tradition seems obviously correct to sophisticated, enlightened, educated moderns—so obvious that it is, interestingly, itself rarely if ever seen to be in need of justification.

Volume 17, Number 1 (2003)


Feser, Edward. “Hayek on Tradition.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 17, No. 1 (2003): 17–56.

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