The Argument from Desire

This is the sixteenth in a series of posts responding to a list of 20 arguments for the existence of god from this article. To be fair, the article does state that these arguments don’t make a case except when taken all together, using the metaphor of a rope, but I am analyzing them individually so I have responses when I encounter the argument later in other sources.

  1. Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
  2. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
  3. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
  4. This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”

The explanation goes on about how humans are never happy without god. This argument might be more convincing if I knew thoroughly happy Christians. But I don’t. Misery, regardless of belief in god, appears part of the human condition.

I was having some difficulty articulating problems with this argument, probably largely because I recognize within myself an occasional desire for something more. I normally would pull my boyfriend in for ideas, but this time I decided to google and see what others have said. I almost immediately found an article that I think excellently refutes the argument.

Therefore, rather than read anything I could babble, please check out this link.

Outsourcing is pretty lazy, but he did a better job than I think I can snipping this thread.

5 thoughts on “The Argument from Desire

  1. I dunno. I found the linked refutation plodding and a bit too pedantic. I think he gives far too much credence too the argument, but he does have an interesting bit about how you define what natural desires are.

    The obvious problem for me is that it seems to get from some vague “desires” that cannot, supposedly, be fulfilled by anything natural and then to God. I feel like there are missing premises somewhere in this argument because I don’t see the logical connection. I could make a claim that’s more parsimonious, such as these supposed vague desires are actually fulfilled by smaller doxastic communities than society at large.

    So, I think that premise number 2 is largely unsupported and hasn’t cleared the hurdle of other, more simple, explanations. I mean–perhaps we can think of it as a convergent property of social groups.

    Basically, I’m saying the argument is far too simple for me as articulated here and the link to the rebuttal gets lost in the weeds.

    1. This is one of those arguments that I personally have found convincing, so I thought it deserved that analysis.

      Perhaps what you are missing is that this is an inductive argument. It’s saying, “All of these other innate desires, like that for sex and food, can be fulfilled, so this other desire, which seems to be the desire for god, must also be able to be fulfilled.” That’s why I appreciated that Inquiring Infidel analysis, as he pointed out that animals exist who desire sex but can’t have it, and we have a desire to live forever and know answers which can’t be fulfilled.

      As with many of these arguments, the problem is quite simple; I just could not see it on my own.

      1. I get that it is inductive, but what I don’t see is how the conclusion is supported from the premises. If it is inductive, then it simply just ignores other possible explanations and that’s a critical weakness, which is why I brought up other more parsimonious explanations for how this desire might actually be fulfilled and what it might actually be.

        Of course, that’s a complex topic–and I don’t think an argument like this can even begin to address the psychological/neurological aspects of desire and fulfillment.

      2. Sorry–I just realized that I’m not accommodating other perspectives in how I talk about this. I don’t mean to demean your experiences and I think now I’m wrong about the rebuttal you linked to.

      3. 🙂

        The weakness you point out is a weakness common to inductive arguments of this type.

        I don’t know if you read the full linked argument; I only quoted the syllogism, not the explanation. He does address a similar response, wording the question like so:

        “How can you know the major premise—that every natural desire has a real object—is universally true, without first knowing that this natural desire also has a real object? But that is the conclusion. Thus you beg the question. You must know the conclusion to be true before you can know the major premise.”

        He then calls this a problem with every deductive argument, but that’s wrong. It’s a problem with every inductive argument.

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