Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


Archbishop Welby is in the press again, saying that keeping within the law does not of itself make your behaviour moral. I agree with that, as argued in my last post. It still leaves some difficult decisions. The A-B has mentioned the Daily Mail piece about Ed Milliband’s Dad. He thinks it was wrong. So do I. But you can see a good intention in it if you think it is ‘moral’ to warn people against danger. “His dad was like this”, says the DM, “and we think his views were dangerous. Is it possible that the son will be like the father, and therefore dangerous, too?”

It is a very old argument. My study of the 14th century poem Piers Plowman brings me this quote:

But I find if the father is false and a scoundrel, that to some degree the son shall have his sire’s faults.”

And in the horseracing world great attention is paid to the breeding of  a horse. It is assumed to be one factor affecting how well it will perform. So the DM piece can’t be dismissed as totally stupid. It can even be viewed as ‘moral’ if you believe it was motivated by charity. (I don’t.)

This poem – Piers Plowman – is full or allegories and personifications. Speaking of Charity as if he/she were a person, the question is put, “How can I know him?” The answer is, “You can’t. Not even by apparently good acts, because they may be driven by a wrong motive. Only Christ can know.” 

We can’t know about other people, but to some extent we can know ourselves.  The A-B is asking us not to stop at asking, “is this legal?” He wants us, I think, also to query our motives.  Would all this philosophising do any good? Perhaps our second question might be, “Am I doing this out of charity?” There might be cases where an action was found to be legal but was in no way charitable. It could then be changed.

The A-B also had a go at Milton Freidman, market, economics and the profit motive. Here I think he is wrong. I believe the blame belongs to the greedy people who operate the system, not the system itself. I also think that every system needs vigourous criticism and that the church was pretty feeble in providing it. Perhaps it will now do better.

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