Argument from desire

Argument from desire

The Argument from Desire is an argument for the existence of God. It is most known in recent times through the writings of C. S. Lewis, for whom it played pivotal role in his own conversion to theism and thence to Christianity.

As a syllogism it can be expressed as follows.

:"Major premise" All innate human desires have objects that exist. By "innate" we mean those desires that are universal. The desire for food, the desire for companionship, the desire to enjoy beauty are innate desires in this sense. The desires to have a grand house or a PhD are not. The premise cannot be proved but is "plausible". We feel hunger; there is such a thing as eating. We feel sexual desire; there is such a thing as sex. It would be very strange to travel to a planet whose inhabitants reported feeling hungry yet never had food, mouth nor stomachs. For every such innate desire in human experience (save one) we can identify the object.

:"Minor premise" There is a desire for "we know not what" whose object cannot be identified. We are never truly satisfied. For even while we satisfy our hunger, our need for companionship, love, beauty, achievement, etc. The second premise aims to articulate and appeal to the concept of "longing" as expressed by the German term Sehnsucht.

:"Conclusion" If the object of this desire does not exist in this world, it must exist in another.

The argument is not meant to be a proof. The conclusion may not necessarily be the only possibility satisfying the premises. Yet the argument from desire can be persuasive because the premises and conclusion can be not merely understood but "seen" in a much more direct way than, say, the Ontological Argument. It plays more directly to the human experience.


Not proof

Much of the criticismFact|date=March 2008 aimed at the argument from desire is related to the fact that simply desiring something does not mean it exists; a scientist who desires to discover a new particle will not be able to find one simply because he wants to. The argument from desire more or less says "God exists because people want him to", a premise which by no means proves his existence. This criticism more or less states that the Argument from Desire is simply a form of the Appeal to emotion fallacy.

God may be a Construct

It can be claimed that if people want God to exist, then he may exist only as an idea constructed by people. The argument's major premise could be constituted as saying people desire not God, but merely an explanation for the world around them. Some skeptics claim that God is simply an explanation created for observed phenomena which could not be explained in any other way at the time; rather like the God-of-the-Gaps argument. In any case, God is by no means the only explanation for observed phenomena.

Assumes People Have a Desire for God

Not everyone actually desires God.Fact|date=March 2008 For example, atheists do not believe in the existence of God, much less do they desire a god. God is not, it is claimed, something that all people fundamentally desire. He may just be something that would more or less satisfy every other desire by humans.

Assumes People Only Desire Things that Exist

Another fallacy in the argument is that it assumes something desired by humanity must actually exist, which is blatantly not the case--countless people desire things that do not exist; many people desire immortality, but it does not currently exist. Although, there must be some distinction made between innate desires and conditioned or artificial desires.


External links

* [ Essay] and [ audio lecture] by Peter Kreeft on the Argument from Desire

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