Tradition is another name for contingency. ~Andrew Sullivan

While I really don’t want to be too pedantic, this is ridiculous conceptual confusion.  Nothing new about that in Sullivan’s writing, I know, but this is a particularly bad example of dismissing an important concept (tradition) by completely misunderstanding what it is.  Tradition is contingent, historically, culturally, even to some extent geographically, but that does not mean tradition = contingency.  That would be like saying that history = contingency. 

This would also be like saying, “Sunlight is just another name for warmth.”  You couldn’t get away with saying something that silly, except perhaps in a poem, but I wonder whether everyone would be equally aware of just how silly this statement is.  You cannot take an attribute, make it into a substantive and then say that this substantive is identical with the thing that it modified when it was an attribute.   

This is to take a quality of a thing, even one of its major qualities, and confuse it for the thing itself.  This is to make an attribute the equal of its substance, which is a fundamental confusion of categories.  It is neo-Barlaamism, and we all know why Barlaam was wrong, don’t we?  Well, Sullivan probably doesn’t.