A dynamic tradition of truth-telling: Moral innovation in the Mahābhārata

Jonardon Ganeri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Idea of a Dynamic Tradition The kernel of the idea of tradition consists in the idea of a practice whose present performance is causally explained by the fact of its having been performed in the past. Traditions instantiate the scheme ‘X is done because X has been done’, where the ‘because’ stands for a relation of causal explanation (the ‘because’ as is found in statements such as ‘the river is swollen because it rained’). The term ‘practice’ in this definition is of broad extention, referring to any species of intentional human activity, and including all but not only the following: matters of personal, familial and social custom, ritual activity, assent to particular and systematic doctrine, the transmission of apprenticeship, skills and training, research programmes and methodologies of inquiry, valuational practices and the cultivation of particular virtues. A tradition is a practice whose later stages are causally self-explained by its earlier stages. We should note that the idea of causal self-explanation is consistent with the existence of external causal factors acting on the tradition, just as citing the rain as the causal explanation of the river's being swollen does not preclude the existence of other causal factors, such as the soil being dry. Causal explanation involves the selection, from among the totality of causes, one that is especially salient or relevant (and in that sense, explanatory). There is no implication, then, that traditions are insulated, self-sufficient, or immune to external causal influence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBoundaries, Dynamics and Construction of Traditions in South Asia
PublisherAnthem Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781843313977
ISBN (Print)0857284304, 9780857284303
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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