The lust for certainty – a sin?

Bless me Father, I've been certain about something...

Bless me Father, I've been a bit certain about something...

In a very good edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Analysis’ programme towards the end of last year, the columnist David Aaronovich recounted a programme that he produced in the 1980s featuring the Archbishop of York, John Hapgood.

The Archbishop, as far as I can see, had the kind of views that would appeal to a Guardian reader rather that an Anglican traditionalist.

Jonathan Dimbleby asked him if it wasn’t the case that people needed a bit of certainty about big issues in order to live their lives. the response that the Archbishop gave stunned Dimbleby and Aaronovich. He said…

Has it occurred to you that the lust for certainty may be a sin?

The whole programme is really worth listening to – I think that podcast subscribers get the option to download all of the archives and the transcript is here.

One of my favourite political bloggers, Chris Dillow of Stumbling and Mumbling has written a great deal about the curse that the apparent need for certainty places upon democratic politics.

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Distributed moral wisdom – mayors and political parties.

I find it almost impossible to take a blog seriously when its central claim is that any British government in the recent past of forseeable future is really lurching towards totalitarianism. It is with this proviso that I offer a semi-approving link to this post.

The elected police chief – like the elected Mayor – cannot seriously be seen as a democratic step forward, can it? If one were to apply the logic that places ‘distributed moral wisdom‘ at the heart of a functioning democracy, then it is very hard to make the case for elections that foreground single individuals.

Surely, it is very hard to make the case that one vote every four years can endorse one individual’s approach to almost everything in a particular sphere? Surely this is little better than holding a plebiscite on a policy issue that most people don’t understand? Continue reading