Archives For faithful succession

Author Information: Samuel Lebens, University of Notre Dame,

Lebens, Samuel. 2013. “True Successors and Counterfactual Approval.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (10): 26-31.

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David-Hillel Ruben and John Williams have treated us to a fascinating discussion about the nature of true-succession, faithful-succession, intellectual traditions, and traditions of practice. In these comments, I want to focus on two related aspects of their ongoing discussion, in the hope of forging either (a) a new approach to identity-conditions of a tradition over time, or, at least, (b) a new disambiguation of the term ‘tradition’.


One issue that has divided the two thinkers can be called the ‘direction debate’. Williams (1988, 161) had once argued that one of the criteria for being a true-successor of a past individual (or, we can widen it to being a true-successor of a past group or community) would have to be forward-looking, from the perspective of the predecessor. The criterion in question (which I paraphrase in my own words) was this:

FORWARD-LOOKING CRITERION: An individual (or group) B is a true successor of an individual (or group) A iff A would, all things being equal, have developed more or less the same central ideas (or practices) as those actually developed by B. Continue Reading…