Josef Pieper's Tradition: Concept and Claim analyzes tradition as an idea and as a living reality in the lives and languages of ordinary people. In the modern world of constant, unrelenting change, tradition, says Pieper, is that which must be preserved unchanged. Drawing on thinkers from Plato to Pascal, Pieper describes the key elements and figures in the act of tradition and what is distinctive about it.
Pieper argues that the handing down of tradition is not the same as discussing or teaching, rather it means accepting something as true and valid with the intent of handing it down again, unmixed with alien intrusions and yet kept alive for each new generation via imaginative reformulations. In the beginning, there is sacred tradition, founded on a revelation of God to man, yet secular tradition is important, too. Tradition offers liberation from the prison of the present. "Understanding what tradition really means makes one free and independent in the face of conservatisms," notes Pieper. At the same time, it links us to the past and is essential for a meaningful future.