Hayek on Tradition

Just as instinct is older than custom and tradition, so then are the latter older than reason: custom and tradition stand between instinct and reason — logically, psychologically, temporally. They are due neither to what is sometimes called the unconscious, nor to intuition, nor to rational understanding. Though in a sense based on human experience in that they were shaped in the course of cultural evolution, they were not formed by drawing reasoned conclusions from certain facts or from an awareness that things behaved in a particular way. Though governed in our conduct by what we have learnt, we often do not know why we do what we do. Learnt moral rules, customs, progressively replaced innate responses, not because men recognized by reason that they were better but because they made possible the growth of an extended order exceeding anyone’s vision, in which more effective collaboration enabled its members, however blindly, to maintain more people and displace other groups.

F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of SocialismThe Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism

(I remembered this passage when reading Shannon’s prior post, entitled On Tradition.)