Is the argument through desire a useless 'just so story'?

CS Lewis’s Argument through Desire, states that man (as I truthfully find) has a natural desire for something beyond anything we find, or can gain, in this world…
This is a ‘natural desire’…so it is unlike desires for, say, Oz or flying with Superman…He suggests it is innate in all humans. From that, he deduces, there must be a ‘desired’ that exists byond this physical world…
A ‘just so story’ as a scientist friend of mine (who happens to be a theist) puts it?

Indeed is it “based on strong teleological assumptions few would accept today. It seems clear, contrary to his [Aquinas’s] central assumption, that there are things in nature that have no point”…a quote I read on Wikipedia in relation to it?

Or does it make logical sense?

It has been awhile since I read Lewis. Is his argument essentially this?

[LIST=1]
*]Every desire has a way to be fulfilled.
*]To know God is a desire.
*]Therefore, the desire to know God has a way to be fulfilled.
*]The only way the desire to know God can be fulfilled is if God exists.
[/LIST]
Therefore, God must exist.

So, basically, where there’s a will, there’s a way?

Well, sorry for revising my post, but I’d say the argument is where there is a desire there is a fulfillment.

But I must be misunderstanding Lewis. For it seems to me life is filled with unfulfilled desires. Hence, regret.

So I guess the weakest link in the logic is the premise that every desire has a fulfillment. It seems the only way to know this is true would be to know what outcomes are real on the other side of death. So either it is a very weak argument, or I have an extremely poor understanding of it.

It is good that you have the insight to realize that it may be your understanding that is the problem and not the argument itself.

This is beside the point but I have noticed in speaking with atheists that they often simply assume that if they don’t understanding something, then the thing itself doesn’t make sense. So if religiomn doesn’t appeal to them, then they reject it (because of how it makes them feel emotionally) an then d begin to look for reasons and arguments which they can use to convince themselves that they have rejected it through superior logic and reasoning powers rather than because they didnt like the fact that God was smarter, wiser and more powerful than them.

I could sum up a large amount of modern atheism with the statement: “Christianity sounds silly to me/I don’t understand it, therefore there can’t be any truth in it”. They really are of the mindset that ideas which appeal to them are true and ideas which do not appeal to them are not true, because there could be no greater arbitrator of truth then their small minds. I know because I used to be an atheist and that was exactly how I thought. This can only happen in a society that has forgotten humility is a virtue, for atheism, which believes human beings are the most intelligent force in existence, is incredibly arrogant.

Anyway, back to the point. The argument is essentially that we desire for actual things, whether the desire goes fullfilled or not is irrelevant. But if you look at your desires, I think you will find that, especially the most powerful ones, are all geared toward things that actually exist. Have you ever someone who had a life crippling desire for a three eyed purple dragon for instance? Probably not. But I bet you ve met lots of people who had a crippling desire to find a marriage partner. Why is this? Why do we as human beings have a desire for a marriage partner but not for a three eyed purple dragon? Could it be because finding a mate is a real movement of human life whereas finding three eyed purple dragons is not?

Now, we all know human beings have a spiritual desire. A desire for peace and happiness which is permanent and transcends the immediate circumstances we find ourselves in. And we also know that nothing in the world of form is permanent. So the argument goes that the fact that we desire this, suggests that it actually exists. Why else would we have this INTENSE desire moving us to do all kinds of things which don’t even necessarily have a whole lot of practical/survival value if there wasn’t a way to fullfill this desire?

I also cannot say I understand what you mean by the outcomes on the other side of death. To die is one way to meet your maker but it certainly isn’t the only way. Jesus and the saints were able, to greater or lessor degrees, fullfill their desire for God even while still on earth. Remember Jesus said my peace I give you. That means not only that Jesus experienced peace while alive but also that he can give it to others, which means it is possible to have your desire for peace filled. Remember, Jesus said "Thy cup will runneth over, so he is not even talking about a small peaceful feeling, nay he is speaking about a major shift in conscious awareness. This shift is so radical that our Lord called it the “peace that passeth alll understanding”.

Anyway, I will finish with a quote from the famous Indian sage Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi because he made this exact same argument:

“All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one. Further that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry, ‘Who am I?’ is the chief means.”

This might sound odd or even heretical to a Catholic, since the goal of our faith is to know God rather than to know ourselves but remember to know God also means to know oneself, for only through knowing God can one truly know themself/

Ceddd99:

Thanks for replying. To be more precise, I’d say the argument relies heavily on the assumption that the premise is true, which states that we desire actual things. We might phrase the argument this way:

[LIST=1]
*]People usually desire actual things.
*]People rarely desire things that are not actual.
*]Actual things exist.
*]Things that are not actual do not exist.
*]People desire God.
[/LIST]

Therefore, God must exist.

The conclusion in this case is illogical. While all of the premises might very well be true, premise (2) allows for the possibility that the argument can support the opposite conclusion, which is that God does not exist. For people sometimes desire things that are not actual. We might avoid this flaw in reasoning by changing premises (1) and (2):

[LIST=1]
*]People ALWAYS desire actual things.
*]People NEVER desire things that are not actual.
*]Actual things exist.
*]Things that are not actual do not exist.
*]People desire God.
[/LIST]

Therefore, God must exist.

In this case, if the premises are true the conclusion might indeed be true. Yet, you and I can both think of examples where (1) and (2) are not true. You would use the example of purple dragons. I would use the example of Zeus or some other pagan diety. People had very strong desires for them in Socrates’ and Jesus’ time, yet Paul tells us these desires were in vain, for the objects of those desires were not actual.

Now, we all know human beings have a spiritual desire. A desire for peace and happiness which is permanent and transcends the immediate circumstances we find ourselves in. And we also know that nothing in the world of form is permanent. So the argument goes that the fact that we desire this, suggests that it actually exists. Why else would we have this INTENSE desire moving us to do all kinds of things which don’t even necessarily have a whole lot of practical/survival value if there wasn’t a way to fullfill this desire?

I also cannot say I understand what you mean by the outcomes on the other side of death. To die is one way to meet your maker but it certainly isn’t the only way. Jesus and the saints were able, to greater or lessor degrees, fullfill their desire for God even while still on earth. Remember Jesus said my peace I give you. That means not only that Jesus experienced peace while alive but also that he can give it to others, which means it is possible to have your desire for peace filled. Remember, Jesus said "Thy cup will runneth over, so he is not even talking about a small peaceful feeling, nay he is speaking about a major shift in conscious awareness. This shift is so radical that our Lord called it the “peace that passeth alll understanding”.

Anyway, I will finish with a quote from the famous Indian sage Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi because he made this exact same argument:

“All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one. Further that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry, ‘Who am I?’ is the chief means.”

This might sound odd or even heretical to a Catholic, since the goal of our faith is to know God rather than to know ourselves but remember to know God also means to know oneself, for only through knowing God can one truly know themself/

As a Hindu, Ramana Maharshi might have a desire for the dieties Ganesha, Shiva, Devi, Surya or Vishnu. Would such a desire guarantee the existence of these? Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way saying God does not exist! I’m simply saying C.S. Lewis does not present a good argument, in this instance.

Ceddd99:

But perhaps you are presenting a third argument? Is your premise that if a desire is shared by all people, then the object of that desire is guaranteed to exist? Or is your premise that the more intense a desire, the more likely the object of that desire is to exist?

Someone who prizes logic- wonderful!:thumbsup:
Or, another way of putting it…A vulcan- great- just what I need right now!

I’m struggling faithwise because every ‘logical’ argument for God…when followed through…seems to crumble to ash.

If ever there was a need for Mr Spock;)! I hope you don’t mind if I enlist your help for a quick conversation here about it?

The things I don’t get are thus:

Values, contrary to theism, don’t appear to me to be objective but subjective.
All states of mind (including spiritual) appear to have genetic causes that devalue any true importance of their own.
There was no Time or Space before the Universe. Isn’t it therefore likely that its creation was because (as Hawking would suggest) of ‘imaginary time’ (Time running horizontal to our linear, as an example) so that reality’s creation is ‘self sufficient’ and self-making…Rather than proposing a sentient mind could have pre-existed existence itself?

Thomas:

Yes, well I always strive to have the logic of Spock and the imagination of Socrates–hence the user name. I find your conclusions Interesting, and would enjoy hearing your thoughts on them. Which of the three would you like to discuss, first, if any?

:slight_smile:

People desire things that they believe are achievable. That doesn’t imply that they are always right. Some desired to unlock the secrets of alchemy, others to find a northwest passage across North America. After a disaster people often desire more than anything to see their loved ones alive and well, but this is often impossible.

So just because we want a loving celestial observer to watch over us, help us when things are bad, and take care of us after we die, doesn’t mean that such a thing exists.

Thank you.

Whether values (beauty, morality etc.) are subjective or objective. If they are objective, it follows that there must be some great ‘lawgiver’ to make them so…But I see evolutionary causes for both things, which is hardly a surprise but, none the less, it follows that subjective values are not only possible via natural selection but likely: and for us to say there is a cause from some univeral lawgiver we need a good argument.

My apologies. Busy, extended weekend. Let’s talk about beauty. I for one find the sound of wind beautiful. At night, in Autumn when there is a breeze, I like to leave my window open so I can listen to the sound. Not sure why it makes me feel so good. It’s just wind. I suppose, too that not everyone shares my joy at hearing the sound, so it is logical to say it seems subjective to me, if any emotion not universally felt by a similar cause is what subjectivity is. However I see no logical reason to say that my love of the sound wind makes gives me any evolutionary advantage. So how can such a love have an evolutionary cause?

Hmm…well scent is carried on the wind. Many of us can smell a storm from many miles away on the wind. Or a fire, or the nearness of a lake or the ocean.

Dogs love to put their heads out the car window and feel wind, and perhaps smell all the things that rush by.

I lived in Canyon land and Raven’s LOVE the wind (or at least act like it) They play in the wind, just playing with what looks a lot like joy.

So I can see many possible evolutionary advantages…Perhaps the ravens are enjoying it, but also building up strength and agility that serves them on still days as well.

True. Birds are at home with the wind and dogs love scents. But my own desire is not to fly, nor for some smell. My own desire is for the sound alone that the wind makes. When I think about it–and I’ve had a good deal of time to think about it, as I’ve had this desire since my childhood–it seems illogical.

We laugh at people who undertake ridiculous endeavors, even saying they are, “chasing after wind.” In fact, such a statement of ridicule is thousands of years old, as it is found in the pages if the Bible. When I hear such mocking, I think to myself, “I resemble that remark!” For although I strive to be a logical thinker, I have this desire that makes no logical sense–evolutionary, or otherwise. To fear the wind or to fight to survive against it would be logical. But I love the wind. My desire for it is akin to the longing I had for my wife when I first met her. Yet this longing does not benefit me in any evolutionary way. There might be some other benefit though. For it gives new meaning to these words:

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

(John 3:8)

They are words spoken by Jesus, which are understood in a unique way by ridiculous wind chasers like me.

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