What’s so great about tradition?
Mill raises an excellent point in contradiction to burke’s sentiments on tradition: sure, tradition may bring about stability and sure, it may be functional, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best course of action. It is certainly possible that traditional practices once brought about the best ends and still do, but this isn’t necessarily always true, bringing us back to Socrates’ thought that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
If we are never to examine, or at least think about what life could be like in the absence of traditional practices, we severely inhibit our ability to enlighten ourselves. If there had been a conscious comparison of all different methods of arranging the sexes and the one best suited to make everyone the happiest was subordinating women to men in the sense that they have been, then this would be the best course of action. Of course, women have never truly been treated as equals to men, so there’s no way we can say that their subordination is the best way to go about things.
Mill’s point about the presumption of conductivity of certain practices like the subordination of women exemplifies why Burke’s arguments and tradition are so accepted. We can tell each other “well, this is the way things are, and this seems to be working out for us,” but while we can sometimes explain why things are the way they are, this does not justify the existence of the practice.
And while the “women and sandwiches” jokes may be funny, it also exemplifies people being all too willing to accept roles without considering alternative possibilities. Yes, I know the jokes aren’t serious, they’re jokes, but I just want to say, I’m a guy, and I can do regular guy stuff as well as cook and make sandwiches.